California’s Hat Creek Full of Trout

By: Chris Shaffer

Hat Creek has been a favorite fishing and camping destination for decades. It’s the staple of Northern California stocked trout fishing for several reasons: it offers many miles of public access, heavy trout plants and the chance to catch trophy rainbows and brooks. That will hold true again this 4th of July. Crowds will be high, as they always are, but the chance of catching big trout always keeps anglers coming back.

As many of you know we spent several days filming Pautzke Outdoors here a few weeks ago. The creek is running fast, swift and gin clear, like it always does. And, those luring bigger trout were around. In fact, we caught a half-dozen of them from three-to-five pounds and put them all back. There will be plenty around during this busy time. We did find many more rainbows than brooks, however.

What surprised me most was the lack of trout available for anglers who worked harder and walked away from the road, picnic areas and campgrounds. Historically, (I’m talking about most years dating back several decades) anglers who walked away from heavily fished sections were rewarded with excellent fishing. Meanwhile, on this outing fishing was slow when we ventured beyond well-stocked sections. Hopefully, that changes and more trout are planted and fish are able to scatter throughout the system.

For now, the most consistent action will occur in picnic areas, roadside stocking points and within the campgrounds. As always, the most trout are stocked from Hat Creek Resort to Bridge Campground. Meanwhile, everything in between has trout. If there’s a bridge across Highway 89, an obvious roadside pullout, picnic area or campground it will be stocked this week. The state will be loading the creek with trout to compensate for holiday crowds.

We spent out time doing what many anglers do at Hat: using Pautzke eggs. Meanwhile, our largest trout were caught on Coho Fire Balls. Oddly enough, we couldn’t get the biggest trout we saw to eat real eggs, but they did grab Fire Balls. What was also surprising was the smaller trout wouldn’t touch the Fire Balls, but did eat the real eggs. This could have also been because there was heavy fishing pressure and they were spooked. We had a half dozen anglers fishing around us most of the time.

When it came to eggs we used Silver Label, Chartreuse Garlic and Pink Shrimp Balls O Fire eggs. Most of the anglers we encountered were using Premium and Green Label, which has been the case here for more than a half century. This is why we used the other products. Oftentimes, showing the trout something different creates strikes.