Berryessa Kokanee Plenty of Water, Plenty of Fish

By: Troy Barr

A lot of our Northern California reservoirs are in bad shape this summer. Fortunately, Lake Berryessa isn’t one of them. Berryessa is great right now. It probably has the most water in the state. It’s only down about 42 feet. You have places like New Melones that are going to be at 8-percent soon and we still have a lot of water to fish.

This year’s quality is average. We are catching some larger fish here and there. Meanwhile, a few years ago we had nothing but big fish from start to finish. Right now, we are getting a mix bag; the four-year old mature fish and next year’s fish. Every day we’re getting 14-19 inch kokes, with 17-18 being common.


You can’t complain about that. I’m just so used to catching bomber fish around here that when they aren’t all 19 inches I’m disappointed. On a side note, we’re consistently getting quality rainbows while targeting kokanee. The last two days we’ve had a two and three pound bow. This is a credit to the California Inland Fisheries Foundation’s Berryessa Pen Project. While the bite on rainbows was slow earlier this summer, this last month we seem to be getting more action on them. They are all averaging two to three pounds.

As expected in August, the kokanee are schooled up now. On the other hand, this year has been different. Normally, they school up in the end of June and early July. This summer we didn’t see it until two weeks ago. I’m not certain what’s caused it. I think it’s the amount of water they are taking out of the lake and how fast they are doing it. It has them screwed up.


Still, the lake is probably fishing 75 percent this year instead of 100. These males are just starting to curl a little bit. I’m thinking the bite will go into the first part of September. Last year it died the first part of August, but Mother Nature is dealing us different cards. A lot of the fish we are catching right now are males. The males are striking fish. I’d say out of every five males you’re catching a female.

The kokanee have gone deep. I’m finding them on structure at the dam. Basically, all the hillsides that come out near the dam, the rock piles, the hills, mostly places where it comes from 70 feet to 100 feet is where you can expect to find them. The kokanee are hanging on vertical structure.


Our gear hasn’t changed much in recent years. I’m still using 8-pound P-Line CXX as a mainline with 10-pound CXX leaders and running Apex, Rocky Mountain Tackle spinners and Uncle Larry’s Spinners. We always tip our spinners with FireCorn. This week Red FireCorn has been best, but most days we use all five colors until we know which is working the best.

Editor’s Note: Troy Barr runs T-Roy’s Guide Service. More for info on his summer Lake Berryessa kokanee trips please visit