Fall Offers Solitude for Trout, Bass & Crappie Anglers at Rollins Lake

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Situated amidst a conifer forest on the Bear River in Nevada County near Colfax, Rollins Reservoir is like two different bodies of water, depending on whether you fish it during the summer or fall, winter and spring.

In the summer, the lake is a maelstrom of personal watercraft, water skiers and recreational boaters. Fishing for the lake’s rainbow trout, German brown trout, spotted, largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish is best during the early morning and late afternoon hours due to the heavy boating traffic during the day. Concentrating on the more peaceful 5 mph coves is also highly advisable.

In contrast, during the fall, winter and spring, the lake is known as a place to find solid fishing for rainbow and brown trout, as well as black bass and panfish, amidst solitude. Bank fishing and trolling are both effective methods for pulling out trout at this time of year.

Richard McGuire and his brother, Ron, nailed their two limits of rainbow trout while casting crankbaits in the Greenhorn Creek arm of Rollns Lake on November 17. Photo by DAN BACHER, Fish Sniffer Staff. 


Rollins is located at an elevation of 2,100 feet and features a surface area of 900 acres and 26 miles of shoreline.

On November 17, the recreational boats and personal watercraft users that enjoy the lake during the summer were gone and anglers dominated the reservoir.

Richard McGuire of Lincoln and Ron McGuire of Weimar had a great time fishing in the lake that afternoon, when they landed 10 rainbows in less than an hour while tossing out crankbaits, along with one spotted bass, in the Greenhorn arm of the lake.

“This is my home lake,” said Richard. “I like to fish it year around from my kayak for trout, bass and crappie.. The bass fishing has been off and on lately. On my latest bass trip here, I caught and released 11 bass while using Zoom Flukes.”

After a long period without plants, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had stocked the reservoir with 1,000 pounds of rainbow trout recently.

I have fished many times from both boat and shore at Rollins. Both Cal Kellogg, Fish Sniffer Editor, and I like to use the lake as a place to test new baits and lures for trout, since your chance of getting trout is very good here during the winter and spring.

The bass fishing has changed a lot at the lake over the past decade. The lake used to be known as one where you can hook lots of small smallmouths and a few largemouths. Smallmouth bass in the 8 to 12 inch range were the predominate the catch. But as is the case on many foothill lakes, spotted bass now dominate the fishing at Rollins.

The predominance of the spotted bass in the lake was demonstrated by the results of a Folsom Bass Club tournament out of the Long Ravine Resort on the same day that the McGuires did so well on the trout. Seventeen teams of two people each, a total of 34 anglers, fished the lake that day. All of the fish weighed in the event were spotted bass with the exception of two largemouths and one smallmouth bass.

“It was a very tough day, but all but one of the teams weighed in fish,” said Jerry Lawler, the club’s tournament director. ”Drop shotting and fishing slow moving baits were the most productive methods. We were originally scheduled to fish Lake Oroville, but we decided to change the location of the tournament to Rollins because of the Camp Fire.”
The results of the event also demonstrate another aspect of the Rollins bass fishery: the lake continues to be known for the quantity of its spotted bass rather than its size

Michael Allen caught the big fish, a 1.88 lb. spotted bass. The two bass that he landed weighed a total of 3.80 pounds. “I hooked the fish while drop shotting with a ¼ oz. dark grape Robo Worm,” he stated.

Ryan Petersen and Ryan McGinnis won first place in the event with 5 fish weighing 7.07 pounds.

Michael Allen caught the big fish, an 1.88 lb. spotted bass, and a smaller bass, at the Folsom Bass Club Tournament at Rollins on November 17. Photo by DAN BACHER, Fish Sniffer Staff. 


Chris Brisendine and and Lee Busolo placed second with 5 fish weighing 6.71 pounds, while Rob Ridge, the club president, and Jim Vretros took third with five fish going 6.33 poundsl

Addison Williams and Shannon Mason finished fourth with five fish weighing 619 pounds while Eric Crowe and Dante Parell took fifth with 5 bass going 5.10 pounds.

Rainbows are the most abundant trout at Rollins. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has historically stocked the reservoir with an average of 6,000 pounds of catchable rainbows per year, although the exact amount of fish planted varies by year.

Trout fishing can be great if you hit the lake at the right time, as the McGuires did. I experienced top-notch fishing in wonderful solitude on a winter trip to Rollins several years ago. I hooked over 30 rainbow trout, keeping my limit of five fish in the 12 to 16 inch class, while casting out orange/gold Cripplures and Berkley PowerBait from shore. I was one of two anglers fishing on the lake that day.

A sleeper population of German browns also makes the lake their home. There is no official lake record, but browns up to 7 pounds have been documented and fish in the 2- to 4-pound range are relatively common.

The browns are known for being long and slender, with Cal Kellogg’s largest ever brown measuring 27 inches long and weighing 5-1⁄2 pounds.

With the water temperature cooling down (it was 58 degrees at press time), now is a good time to target browns at the reservoir. “For browns, troll with stickbaits like Rapalas in the Bear River arm 200 to 300 feet behind the boat from now through spring,” tipped Craig Newton at Willfish Bait and Tackle in Auburn.   

Calvin Frey bagged this smallmouth/spotted bass hybrid and spotted bass during the Folsom Bass Club Tournament at Rollins Lake on November 17. Photo by DAN BACHER, Fish Sniffer Staff.


“Start trolling at a slower speed and then speed up and rip the lures to give the an erratic motion. Use plugs in bass, perch, rainbow trout and brown trout patterns,” he tipped.

While rainbows can be taken at the reservoir year round, the months of April and May when the water has cleared up from winter storms that often muddy the water, are some of the best to target trout here.

Fish Sniffer Publisher Paul Kneeland, who lives right near the lake, said his favorite time to fish Rollins is in May before the summer boat traffic shifts into high gear.

“I like to head into the Bear River arm and drift nightcrawlers for the rainbows in the flow of the river,” he tipped. “For browns, I like to troll with CD 5 and 7 Rapalas.”

The lake also features a sleeper crappie population measuring 12 to 14 inches long and sometimes biger. Guys fishing with small jigs off the points and structure pick up the slabsides year round. “Find a school and start jigging,” advised Newton.

Trophy crappie are always a possibility here. Just ask McGuire, who landed an 18 inch crappie at Rollins. Another angler also landed a 20 inch crappie at the lake.

Channel catfish offer a good summer and fall fishery for shore anglers and boaters, particularly at night when the whiskered leviathans go into the shallows to feed.
For more information about Rollins Lake, contact Willfish Bait and Tackle in Auburn, (530) 887-0839, or Long Ravine Marina, (530) 346-6166, www.longravineresorts.com.