Collins Lake, one of the premier trout fisheries for family-style fishing in Northern California, hosted the NorCal Trout Angler’s Challenge Championship on the weekend of November 5 and 6.
The derby began just two weeks after the first fall plants of rainbow trout from Mount Lassen Fish Farm went into the popular fishing and camping lake in the Sierra Nevada foothills northwest of Yuba City. The Collins Lake management has to date stocked 4600 pounds of big, bold rainbows this autumn– and will stock another 4600 pounds before the Thanksgiving weekend.
These trout plants are in addition to the 36,000 pounds of rainbows already stocked in the lake this spring, according to Lincoln Young, manager of the Collins Lake Recreation Area.
Approximately 1,800 pounds of CDFW trout that were originally slated for the spring’s allotment will be put in the lake’s floating pen rearing program that is now in its tenth year. The trout will be released into the lake next year when they are 1-1/2 to 2 pounds.
Although the plants included a good number of 3 to 6 pound trout, none of these larger fish were biting during the event. Instead, square-tailed holdovers in the 1 to 2-1/2 pound range dominated the championship.
“We are extremely pleased with the following this series has seen over the past 3 years, and are happy that it provides a low-cost venue for families that love to fish,” said Vince Harris of Anglers Press, the organization that sponsored the series with the Fish Sniffer. “Next year will be our biggest year ever, as we will have more sponsors – and more prizes to give out to our participants.”
Tom Billmaier won first place in the event with a 2.85 lb. rainbow. He caught his fish while using PowerBait in the first hour of the derby from his boat.
The second through tenth place winners were: (2) Mike Combs, 2.78; (3) Duane McCune, 2.54; (4) Jake McColough, 2.52,; (5) James Townley, 2.39; (6) Gary McCune, 2.37; (7) Mark Sepelyak, 2.1; (8) Terese Carter, 2.1; (9) Tom Pickett, 2.02; and (10) David Bixler, 1.93.
Jake McColough won the drawing of the top 10 winners, winning a 14′ Tracker prize boat and electric trolling motor sponsored by Dodge Ram Trucks.
Winston Huber took first place in the Youth Division with a 2.33 lb. rainbow. He hooked the fish while soaking PowerBait from the bank near the dam.
The second through tenth place winners were (2) Reef Smith, 1.87; (3) Jacob Trejo, 1.66; (4) Dolan Osterberg, 1.57; (5) Braden Golden, 1.43; (6) Joey Hill, 1.43; (7) Ricky McColough, 1.14; (8) Chloe Muroka, .56; (9) David Grass, 0.55; and (10) Amara Grass, 0.54.
Dolan Osterberg won the fishing kayak in the drawing of the top 10 youth winners.
In addition to taking home checks and trophies, participants won a lot of fishing gear and tackle and rods provided by the event sponsors.
Berkley came on board with PowerBait, rods, reels and fishing line, while Thomas Lures, Sep’s Pro Fishing, Magic Products, Acme Tackle, Silver Horde and Dick Nite Spoons offered an array of lures, dodgers and more.
Yakima Bait stepped forward to provide all manner of baits including the tried and true Flatfish. They also awarded $100 at each tournament during the series, held at San Pablo, Rancho Seco, Collins and Camanche this season, for the biggest fish caught on a RoosterTail Spinner.
Atlas-Mike’s provided an array of Zeke’s Floating Bait, scented salmon eggs and scents. Pro-Cure Bait Scents was also a part of the NTAC team in 2016, supplying Super Gel and other products during the series.
Collins is located in a 1600 acre and recreation area with 12-1/2 miles of shoreline, situated in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 1-1/4 hours northeast of Sacramento between Marysville and Grass Valley. The lake is located at 1200 feet in elevation, below the snow and above the fog during the winter.
Besides rainbow trout, the lake features great populations of largemouth bass, spotted bass, black crappie, redear sunfish and channel catfish.
The resort, in cooperation with the CDFW, Kokanee Power and CIFFI, has sponsored a successful pen-rearing program.
The CDFW puts the trout in the 12 floating pens at a size of 2/3 lbs. each November, according to Young. When they are released in increments between mid March and the end of April, they range from 2-1/4 to 3 pounds.
“They’re beautiful fish with full fins that look much more like native or holdover trout,” said Young. “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.”
While the CDFW planted brown trout in previous years; 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.”
To enhance the bass and panfish fishery, Young and the lake management every winter stock the lake with 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 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 rain, it inundated the brush, providing good habitat for juvenile bass and sunfish to feed and hide from predators.”
The lake level at press time was 30 feet from full and the water was clear and fishable.
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.
Day use fees: Vehicle only: $11.00 Monday-Friday, $14.00 Saturday-Sunday. Seniors (age 60+), disabled and active military $2.00 off, extra persons $4.00. Vehicle with boat: $20.00 Monday-Friday, $23.00 Saturday-Sunday
Information and Services: Collins Lake Recreation Area, 1-800-286-0576 or (530) 692-1600, www.collinslake.com.