Joe Hill of North Highlands won first place in the adult division of the NorCal Trout Anglers Challenge Tournament of Champions at Collins Lake on November 4-5 by catching the largest fish, a rainbow trout weighing 4.48 pounds.
He was soaking chartreuse PowerBait from the bank when he hooked the hefty rainbow.
“I found excellent fishing both days,” he said. “I kept five rainbows and released five rainbows My fishing partners also experienced great action while using PowerBait; They finished 15th and 19th in the event.”
Not only did he land the biggest fish in the event, but Hill won a 14-foot Tracker boat with a Mercury motor valued at $5,000.
140 anglers fished in the event at the foothill lake, located at an elevation of 1200 feet about midway between the cities of Marysville and Grass Valley. Anglers had to fish through rain at times on Saturday, but it was dry and sunny on Sunday.
“This fifth season was our most successful season ever, and our anglers have really learned how to put an effective fishing strategy together – even when the pressure of a championship event is added to the mix,” said Vince Harris, President/CEO, Angler’s Press Outdoor Promotions, the organizer of the event along with the Fish Sniffer magazine. “And stay tuned…we have even better things in store for our anglers in the 2018 season!”
Jay Larson placed second in the adult division with a 4.22 lb. rainbow, while Glen Begins placed third with a 4.11 lb. trout.
The fourth through tenth place winners were (4) Trese Carter, 4.08; (5) Erin Baldanzi, 3.85; (6) Robert Smith, 3.67; (7) Jeremiah Ramerez, 3.4; (8) Jimmy Trejo; 3.17; (9) Fred Tinsley, 2.87; and (10) Ken Murkami.
Jordy McCune won first place in the youth division with 2.83 pounds. Devin Osterberg finished second with 2.56 pounds, while Andrew Lawlor placed third with 2.45 pounds.
The kid’s division winner took home a brand-new Sea Eagle inflatable pontoon boat, valued at over $1,200.
The fourth through tenth place winners were (4) Luke Whichard, 1.96; (5) Matt Gillette, 1.93; (6) Ricky Diaz III, 1.86; (7) Michelle Lewis 1.73; (8) Ryder Petersen, 1.61; (9) Winston Huber, 1.56, and (10) Natalie Smith, 1.51
Deputy Bob Hauck of the Sacramento Sheriff Sportsman’s Project and two other deputies brought 9 youth to fish the event.
“The purpose of our organization is to give inner city kids a unique experience by disconnecting from phones and connecting to the outdoors,” said Hauck.
Sponsors included Fisherman’s Warehouse, Gone Fishing Marine, Atlas Mike’s, Berkley, Yo-Zuri, Yakima Bait, Costa Del Mar, Silver Horde/Gold Star, Panther Martin, Dodge, Mack’s Lures, Pro-Cure, SeaEagle.com, Dick Nite Spoons and Thomas Fishing Lures.
Anglers who finished in the top 50 in any one of the 2017 NorCal Trout Angler’s Challenge events were qualified to participate in the end-of-the season championship at the lake.
The 1200-acre reservoir, located on Dry Creek, a tributary of the Yuba River, features 12 miles of shoreline located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills just over an hour northeast of Sacramento between Marysville and Grass Valley.
More than 50,000 rainbow trout are planted in Collins every spring and fall, meaning that Collins Lake has the largest private planting program north of Sacramento. Thousands of these trout are trophy- sized, planted at 3 to 8 pounds and growing even larger.
To date this year, the lake management has stocked 38 times at 1800 pounds per plant, a total of 68,400 pounds to date. “We have already stocked 4,800 lbs. of trout in the past 3 weeks and 1800. pounds this coming week. We will plant every week up to Thanksgiving week,” said Shelly Groce of the resort.
The resort, in cooperation with the CDFW, Kokanee Power and CIFFI, has also sponsored a successful pen-rearing program to enhance the trophy trout fishery at the reservoir.
The CDFW puts the trout in the 12 floating pens at a size of 2/3 lbs. each November. When they are released in increments between mid-March and the end of April, they range from 2-1/4 to 3 pounds. This year the net pens were filled on November 16 by the CDfW, assisted by volunteers.
“They’re beautiful fish with full fins that look much more like native or holdover trout,” said Lincoln Young, manager of Collins Lake Resort. “Since they’re already acclimated to the lake’s waters, they’re brightly colored, their flesh is firmer and they fight harder than recently planted trout.”
The CDFW planted brown trout in previous years, but they haven’t stocked browns over the past several years.
Trout grow big and fat in Collins, feeding heavily on the lake’s abundant threadfin shad and other forage. Rich Moore set the lake rainbow record of 14 pounds, 3 ounces in May 2009. The lake brown record, set in 1991 by Bill Clutter, is 9 pounds.
Spotted and largemouth bass offer great fishing at Collins also. Dan Raub captured the lake largemouth bass record of 13 pounds, 4 ounces in June 1998 while fishing a live crawdad. James Everhart employed a trout swimbait to nail the lake spotted bass record of 9 pounds, 8-1/2 ounces in 2008.
“Spotted bass are the most abundant bass in the reservoir,” said Collins. “We see good numbers of 4 to 5 pounders and fish up to 7 pounds every year. Over the years, we’ve weighed in a dozen spotted bass over 8 pounds.”
Channel catfish also offer an excellent fishery at the lake throughout the year, with the best action generally available during the summer and early fall months. Anglers use mackerel, sardines, anchovies, chicken liver and anchovies to hook the hard-fighting catfish.
The lake produces some huge cats every year. For example, Bernie and Bonnie caught a 10 lb. catfish and one crappie on worms down by the beach, while Brian Bender of Elk Grove caught a 10 lb. catfish down by the dam using worms also this October.
To supplement the bass and panfish fishery, Young and the lake management every winter stock the lake with around Alabama spotted bass, black crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish to supplement the naturally-reproducing fish populations. “We plant the fish at the size that they can spawn that season,” Young noted.
In addition to replanting the reservoir with warm water fish, they also have conducted their own habitat enhancement project every 6 to 8 years to rebuild the lake’s food chain from the bottom up.
“A positive aspect of the recent drought is that it has exposed the shoreline and allowed brush to grow around the lake,” said Young. “When the lake filled this spring with the rainbows, it inundated the brush, providing good habitat for juvenile bass and sunfish to feed and hide from predators.”
Collins Lake Facts
Location and Size: The recreation area, located at 1200 feet in elevation, covers about 1,600 acres when full and features 12.5 miles of shoreline. Collins Lake is about 1-1/4 hours northeast of Sacramento and about 30 minutes east of Marysville.
Season: The recreation area is open for day use 7 days a week year-round. Anglers fish for rainbow trout, brown trout, spotted bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish.
Boating: The water ski season runs from May 15 through September 30. Jet skis and small personal watercraft aren’t allowed on the lake. A double wide concrete launch ramp with a dock and a full-service marina with moorage and boat rentals are available.
Fishing Access: Collins Lake provides outstanding access for shore anglers and campers. Shore anglers find success while fishing along the dam, on the west shore and around the bridge on the river arm.
Camping: A safe and clean family campground includes hot showers and laundry, RV hookups and tent campsites. The campground is patrolled by security and emergency medical personnel are on call. Groups are welcome. Rates vary on time of year and amenities provided.
Other Facilities: Collins includes a 600-foot sand swimming beach, children’s playground, beach volleyball, picnic area, general store, laundry and hot showers. Check out their famous huge ice cream cones! Three large group picnic areas located near the swimming beach and playground.
Information and Services: Collins Lake Recreation Area, 1-800-286-0576 or (530) 692-1600, www.collinslake.com.