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Southern CA Freshwater

Lake Isabella: Avoid the wind for mixed-bag fishing at Isabella

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff Writer Published: Aug 07, 2019

LAKE ISABELLA — August isn’t typically a month for legitimate mixed-bag fishing in Southern California, but that’s what’s going on at Lake Isabella. A respectable pick on holdover trout have joined the ranks of crappie, catfish and bass.

“The lake has dropped a little bit, but if you do your homework and go on a day when winds are tolerable, you can catch a lot of good-size catfish and crappie,” said Darren Graham of Atomic Custom Baits and Fishing Guide Services. “I caught all my fish on a small rainbow trout-pattern crankbait. The catfish and crappie just loved it, and the bass would follow it all the way to the boat.”

LAKE ISABELLA IS still sporting some of the best crappie fishing in the state. PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB’S BAIT BUCKET

While Graham found resident largemouth to be skittish other than getting those followers, he was on the right track as reports have shown scaled-down reaction baits have been working for Isabella bass. Jerkbaits and underspins are also in that mix along with finesse plastics and smaller jigs.

Staffers at Bob’s Bait Bucket in Bakersfield also mentioned the falling water level and said it’s having no ill affects on the catfish bite. Shrimp, dip baits and mackerel are connecting local anglers with solid numbers of fish with most full stringers including a bigger kicker fish or two.

Other than a stray slow week here and there, the crappie bite has arguably been tops in the state since the beginning of summer. That’s the primary bite that is affected by high winds that have been plaguing the fishery on some days, so it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and try to hit Isabella when the wind is down. Boaters have had the edge over shore anglers lately, with just about any area with submerged trees producing numbers and size, it’s a simple matter of staying mobile until you locate biters. The North Fork has been especially productive for slab anglers using jigs or small minnows.

Quality rainbow trout have once again turned on in deeper water around the dam where they are best targeted with still-fished or drifted trout worms, Mice Tails or nightcrawlers on a split-shot rig, which can also connect you with crappie in the same area.

stevenduncanSTEVEN DUNCAN

A great example of the mixed-bag fishing that can be had on the right day on Isabella came in a report sent to WON just before press time. Wildomar angler Steven Duncan who was fishing with Rick Kizzee and Judith Palma (collectively, Team Sippy Cup) said, “we started the night off with seven catfish, the biggest being 13 pounds, then it was a good day starting with easy limits of trout on HookUp Baits, Thomas Buoyants and PowerBait. We the headed up the lake to fish crappie, and we had limits for three within two hours.”

Duncan said the cats ate mackerel with Bite-On added, and along with the crappie, they were all caught in the South Fork. The trout were all caught near Camp 9.

The slight drop in water level (down from 54 to 52 percent of capacity) is the result of water being released into the Lower Kern River at a higher-than-normal rate. The lake is still in great shape, and water is still coming into the lake from the Upper Kern at a respectable clip.

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