Berryessa Kicking Out Cali’s Largest Kokanee

By Troy Barr | 06/12/2014

Two years ago was the freak year at Lake Berryessa. We saw kokanee up to 22 inches. Our fish were big, like Flaming Gorge kokanee. Last year, on the other hand, our kokanee were a little smaller. Sure we caught some 19-inch fish, but most were 16-18 inches. This year we are catching fish that are 17.5 to 18 ¼ inches already. I think we’ll see fish well over 20 inches.


By far we are the premier kokanee lake in California. Ever since Indian Valley went dry, Berryessa has been picking up the slack. There’s no better kokanee lake in in the state. For quantity I’d go to Stampede or Melones, but they are all small. You can catch as many kokanee as you want at those lakes, but you come to Berryessa for quality.


Unfortunately, there’s a lot of guys that don’t make limits, but it’s entirely possible if you follow general rules of the lake, particularly the famed ‘don’t leave fish to find fish rule’. I see guys catch fish and continue trolling down the reservoir. They leave the school doing this. When you find these fish stay on them and you’ll have a better chance at limits.


Our fishery is thriving. I think it’s because they put less fish in here than they do in other Nor Cal reservoirs. And, I don’t believe we have a lot of natural reproduction. They used to put 80,000-85,000 fish here, but three years ago we got cut back because there were less eggs available from Taylor Creek up on Lake Tahoe and we are seeing the positive signs of that now. When they stock less our get larger. I wish they’d stock less more often.


In June our kokanee are concentrated in the river channel. That’s where our coldest water is. As the summer goes on these fish are going to go into their pre-spawn and move up on structure. I’d say pre-spawn will start the first of July and then they’ll be tougher to catch. Right now, meanwhile, they are biting. We are fishing in 70-90 feet of water and our larger fish are starting to move toward structure, particularly on the east side where the contour goes from 70 to 80.

Right now with the full moon it’s a great bite till first light. Then they slow down and become active again a few hours later. However, when it’s not a twilight bite you can get them till 1pm without much of a pause in the action. You just have to go deeper for them as the day goes on. We’ll start trolling 48-52 feet deep in the morning and then 55-62 in the afternoon. It’s important to adjust your depth with the light conditions.


This time of year I’m using 5.5-inch Rocky Mountain Tackle Hyper Plaid, Watermelon and Bahama Mama dodger with Apex spoons, Uncle Larry’s spinners and RMT squids, all tipped with red Fire Corn. It’s important to use scents in the corn, however. I like to use fresh garlic, herring oil from the store and Liquid Krill.


Editor’s Note: Troy Barr operates T-Roy’s Guide Service. For more info on his Berryessa kokanee trips please visit