New Melones Lake California

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Melones Lake Fishing

New Melones Lake Fishing Guide

New Melones Lake is a popular fishing area in north central California, and the undulating foothills of the Sierra Nevada offer a magnificent background.

New Melones lake is a 12,500-acre artificial lake created with a dam on the Stanislaus River. It is located in the center of Gold County, California. The scenic surroundings and the gold found near the lake more than a century ago have made it somewhat popular. Sonora, a community, founded during the California Gold Rush, is located 9 miles from the water.

The coastline of New Melones Lake (also known as New Melones Reservoir) is primarily undeveloped, except for a marina and a few parks.

New Melones’ massive size and rugged coastline make it a perfect destination for anybody who wants to fish away from the crowds.

For the same reason, it’s a fantastic spot for fishing with a fishing charter.

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New Melones Reservoir

Because of its central position, you can reach New Melones Lake without trouble from anywhere in this section of California.

Due to its convenient location in an area teeming with good fishing places like the neighboring Don Pedro Reservoir, it has become a favorite destination for anglers and other outdoor leisure enthusiasts.

If you’re planning a fishing trip at New Melones Lake, you should go in the spring.

Water skiers and other recreational boaters don’t swarm the lake until the summer, so in the spring, you’re less likely to have to compete for space. However, before visiting New Melones Lake, verify the lake levels carefully. Fishing and using the lake’s boat ramps may be affected by the lake’s tendency for extreme variations.

The reservoir is often at its most remarkable in the early summer and its lowest in the middle of winter. Yet, the colder months are ideal for seeing animals like bald eagles because of fewer visitors.

Fish Species at New Melones Lake

This artificial lake is famous for more than just its annual bass contests. It is also known for the tenacity of its rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, just a few of the numerous game fish that thrive here. Here are the most popular game fish species that fishermen can catch:

Largemouth bass

Largemouth bass anglers will not be disappointed by their time spent on New Melones Lake.

Even while bass numbers have taken a knock in drought-stricken years, they usually appear to recover quickly. Two- to five-pound largemouth bass are so common in this area that 50-fish days are possible on a good day.

At New Melones lake, you are likely to find a lot of fish, but not many trophy ones. However, there are some large bass (a few 10-pounders are captured practically every year). It’s not bad, as anybody who has fished for feisty three-pound bass till their arms hurt will attest.

In the spring, fishing is consistently strong for largemouths when bass are in various states of breeding around the lake. It’s also the most incredible time of year to reel in some massive fish. Although the season may start as early as February, the best bass fishing is usually between March and June.

When bass are resting or ready to spawn, jigs and soft plastics are effective lures. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, and spinnerbaits become famous as the season transitions from post-spawn to early summer. You can catch the largest bass of the season on a giant swimbait in the shape of a trout.

For the larger largemouths, the winter and early spring stocking of New Melones Lake with fingerling trout are like Christmas. Largemouth bass are more likely to be caught in the Angels Creek arm of New Melones, which forms the left fork of the Y-shaped lake. In the spring, pay attention to inlets and stream mouths; in the summer, move your focus to adjacent points.

Glory Hole and Carson’s Creek, located near the lake’s two major arms, are two of the most fantastic places to visit in the spring. It is also possible to find excellent fishing in Mormon Creek Inlet and the main lake islands.

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass population in New Melones has always been considered average. Due to competition with spotted bass, smallmouths have likely reduced in the reservoir during the last decade.

Expect to catch other kinds of bass and smallmouths while fishing for smallmouths in the rocky terrain found in the Glory Hole region and around the lake’s islands. Jigs designed to look like crawfish do well when bounced off the bottom. Put some red into your color scheme and see how it goes.

Spotted Bass

While largemouth bass is more common in New Melones Lake, the spotted bass population is enormous and underappreciated.

Spots of 2 to 4 pounds are common in the reservoir, while fish of even greater size have been caught occasionally. A spotted bass weighing 10.48 pounds was captured in the lake in 2014, setting a new state record. Spotted bass use many of the same habitats as largemouth bass, particularly places with submerged wood, and mixes of the two species are regular catches.

On the other hand, the spotted bass is often less dependent on the cover.

They are more at ease in open water than largemouths and may frequently be seen far from shore following schools of shad. When trolling for trout, anglers sometimes reel in spots.

You can catch spotted bass on New Melones Lake’s numerous long, sloping points using various lures, such as shad-imitating crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and spoons, particularly in the summer.

A springtime trip to New Melones Lake requires creativity and readiness to explore various techniques. As March progresses, spotted bass will rise from their wintering grounds, and anglers may often locate fish ranging from 10 to 40 feet deep.

Top Targeted Fish Species

Largemouth bass and Bullhead catfish
Northern Bass
Smallmouth Bass - Tuttletown recreation areas
Smallmouth Bass
Brook Trout

Brook Trout

Crappie - San Joaquin river


See all fish species >>>

Rainbow Trout

At the complete pool, the depth of New Melones Lake is well over 500 feet, and its alpine water is frigid, thanks to the Stanislaus River. The latter makes it an ideal habitat for cold-water game fish, such as trout.

In most areas, rainbow trout are the most prevalent kind. Each winter and spring, the reservoir is stocked with hundreds of pounds of rainbows by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

March is excellent for rainbow trout fishing since the water temperature is still chilly enough for the trout to feel at home at shallower depths. Rainbow trout supplied at this time of year tend to be on the smaller side, but some monsters are always lurking in the depths. Fish weighing two pounds are usual, but some rainbow trout in the lake weigh five pounds or more.

Casting Kastmaster lures and other spinners to near-shore rainbow trout in the spring is a productive strategy. Trout fishermen in the area also have a penchant for using live nightcrawlers, PowerBait (LINK), and marshmallows as bait.

In the spring, you may see rainbows ranging from the surface to depths of twenty feet or more. The CA-49 bridge, Angels Creek, and Glory Hole Recreation Area are all excellent places to fish from the shore in the spring.

Trout prefer colder, deeper waters around the last month of spring and during the hot season. They gorge on shad and other baitfish, but getting to them means leaving the bank.

Trolling over deep water in the main lake channel is the most productive method for catching rainbow trout throughout the summer. Among the most sought-after lures are shad-patterned Needlefish and Speedy Shiners. So long as you’re willing to try different depths, you can catch trout anywhere from 15 to 50 feet below. The brighter and hotter it is, the deeper they tend to go.

Brown Trout

Although brown trout are rare at New Melones Lake than rainbow trout, fishermen often capture some hefty specimens in the spring. Brown trout of 6-8 pounds are frequent in the reservoir, and several fish up to 10 pounds have been caught there previously.

Let’s be honest, though: Brown trout are elusive and challenging to catch, which only adds to the trout’s allure for dedicated trophy trout fishermen.

Angels, Carson, Coyote, and Mormon creeks in the spring and autumn are your best bets if you want to capture brown trout. Unlike rainbow trout, brown trout like to congregate closer to cover. Therefore, the stream arms here are ideal and often not seen in open water.

Cast jointed Rapalas in shad or fire tiger patterns for fishing near standing wood. Trolling live shad, or “rolling shad,” as the technique is commonly referred to, is a popular method some locals use to catch brown trout. You can drift live minnows beneath a slip float into the creek’s standing timber for another alternative.

Fishing for brown and rainbow trout, bass, and crappie is at its best at New Melones Lake during the spring when all game species are actively feeding.

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee, small, silvery, landlocked counterparts of sockeye salmon, have been stocked in a few of Northern California’s reservoirs. Anglers in the New Melones Lake area always start the new fishing season with the question of whether or not it will be a good year for kokanee.

New Melones Reservoir is known for producing some of the largest ‘kokes’ in the state. Simultaneously, the exact number varies based on how many are stocked each year and some other variables. New Melones Lake is one of the top kokanee fishing lakes in California, with fish averaging between 12 and 15 inches in length and a few 18-inch kokanees landed in most years.

When is the ideal time of year to fish for kokanee? That depends on who you ask. Although their numbers peak in the spring, these fish continue to develop throughout the season. The largest specimens are often taken in late July.

Regardless of the time of year, trolling in deep open water is essential for capturing kokanee. These species prefer colder water temperatures to trout, so you may expect to catch them as deep as 100 feet in the summer and as shallow as 50 feet in the spring. Get your lure deep by using downriggers or lead-core lines, and be ready to cast across a lot of water.

Locating kokanee may take some time since they like wide water and survive primarily on zooplankton.

Fishermen can find kokanee in abundance in the deep water off Glory Hole Point, close to the New Melones Dam and spillway, and in the vicinity of Rose Island. The Kokanee Killer and pink hoochies are two excellent trolling lures. Dangle a kernel of white shoepeg corn from the end of your hook to increase your chances of catching fish.


Black crappie fishing at New Melones Lake is best in the spring. Fish exceeding 2 pounds are not uncommon when these aggressive panfish migrate to shallow water in the spring to eat and breed.

New Melones Lake is teeming with crappies in the spring, and anybody with a light spinning rod and some little jigs will bring several fish home. Fishing with a bobber and a few live little minnows is also effective.

Things get going in March and keep going well throughout April and May. Crappies become more elusive in June when rising temperatures cause them to go to deeper areas like stream channels.

Coves off the main lake have plenty of submerged brush and wood close to shore, making them prime springtime fishing locations. Glory Hole Recreation Area’s marina is a popular and fruitful spring crappie spot.


You may fish for white or channel catfish, as well as bullheads, at New Melones Lake. Anglers like catching channel cats because they are the biggest and most elusive of the three species.

Summer is the best time for catching catfish at New Melones Lake. Big cats spend the winter dormant in deep water, but they go towards the shallows when the weather heats up.

The ideal time to catch catfish is after dusk when the biting usually begins. Try fishing near the bottom at night throughout the summer using natural baits like anchovies, sardines, and mackerel, in addition to the standard nightcrawlers and chicken livers.

It is common to capture channel catfish weighing 5-10 pounds during summer. However, white and bullhead catfish are usually considerably smaller. The most incredible places are in 5–20 feet of water around points of the main lake and on sloping, muddy sides.

Shore Fishing on New Melones Lake

It’s possible to do some fantastic bank fishing in New Melones Lake. Its unspoiled miles of coastline offer several unique possibilities, even though access is difficult in many spots due to the steep banks.

Two parks that are great for bank fishing are Glory Hole and Tuttletown. You can catch many springtime trout from the shore in Angels Creek, beside the boat ramp.

Bank fishermen use the area surrounding the New Melones Lake Visitors Center and the adjacent CA-49 bridge. It’s another good place for catching trout in the spring, and catfish fishermen do well here throughout the summer.

Best Spots to Fish at New Melones Lake

New Melones Lake is big, and there are many excellent fishing spots. There is also a lot of fish, so throwing your line from wherever can bring you a catch. Here are some of the most popular places:

Angels Arm

Angels Arm is located in the southwest section of the lake. Several smaller streams flow into this lengthy arm of the lake. It’s dense with wet bushes and trees that haven’t fallen yet. Several large rock heaps are also here. Anglers may enjoy this section of the lake throughout the seasons.

You can catch bass and crappie in the lake’s main body during the hottest months, usually on points, humps, and standing timber. To locate bass pursuing shad in the autumn, revisit the bends of channel access points around the arms of the lake.

You can fish this spot for bass, catfish, and crappie from the shoreline, boat, kayak, or float tube.

Vonich Cove

Vonich Cove is also located in the southwest section of the lake. In certain seasons, the fishing here is world-class.

Submerged brush, trees, cuts, and drainage channels may provide excellent largemouth bass and crappie fishing if the lake is flooded after heavy rains.

You can fish for crappie and largemouth bass on this spot from a boat, kayak, or float tube.

Vermont Bar to Glory Hole Point

These spots are located on the south section of New Melones Lake, where fishing is best from a boat or kayak.

Trout, kokanee, and salmon fishermen may use the lake’s submerged natural humps and ridges as primary trolling targets.

Winter and spring in this region can be fantastic, and trout can hold between 20 and 40 feet, allowing trolling without a downrigger.

Trout and salmon like holding across several slopes and peaks throughout the summer. During the summer months, these fish will be holding in 80 to 100 feet of water, making the use of a decent downrigger necessary for trolling.

While fishing in New Melones Lake, you should know that the wind might quickly sweep you off your place. For this reason, it is highly advised that you invest in a high-quality drift sock to ensure that your drift remains at an optimum rate.

Middle Bay

Anglers may also try their luck at catching trout, kokanee, or salmon in the lake’s Middle Bay. This fishing spot is located in the middle sections of New Melones Lake, reachable by boat or kayak.

The terrain in this region consists primarily of cliff faces and ledges from flooded river channels.

Winter and spring in this region can be fantastic, and trout can hold between 20 and 40 feet, allowing trolling without a downrigger.

During the summer months, these fish will be holding in 80 to 100 feet of water, making the use of a decent downrigger necessary for trolling.

Carson Creek

In the summer, smallmouth and spotted bass fishermen go to Carson Creek, a little arm that extends from Middle Bay. Using a kayak, boat, or float tube, you can fish from the shoreline.

Targeting the lone rock piles and bedrock sections is the key to success while fishing here. Before you go fishing, you should use a fish finder to see whether any fish are holding over the rocks.

Largemouth bass and crappies will congregate in the vertical wood just below the water’s surface when the lake’s water level is shallow.

Always look for bass at Carson Creek’s major lake points. Trout sometimes floats in the creek’s center just downstream from its mouth. This little cove is a prime breeding ground for bass.

Coyote Arm

Coyote Creek is located in the middle section of New Melones Lake. There are hairpin turns and steep slopes throughout this long arm of the lake.

Anglers may enjoy this section of the lake throughout the seasons. It is best fished by boat.

This lake arm is fascinating because it is situated downriver from a natural river channel constriction that creates a funnel. Species, including bass, trout, kokanee, and salmon, use this funnel structure to wait for prey just downstream.

His arm has a lovely natural ridge right down the center of it. This hill is a prime bass fishing territory in the summer.

Largemouth bass and crappies will congregate in the vertical wood just below the water’s surface when the lake’s water level is shallow.

Horseshoe Bend, Devils Canyon, and Quail Flat

Horseshoe Bend, rather than being a single place, is a larger region of fishing locations marked by a steep bend to the east farther up the river. You can find two additional topographical features here, Quail Flat and Devils Canyon.

The little washout coves around the inner bend are the most incredible places to go fishing.

Aside from the river’s main channel, fishermen may cast their lines off the rocky bluff walls.

In addition, there is a rise in elevation at the section’s midpoint, beginning at the inner curve. Submerged vegetation and standing wood litter the inner curve along with rock piles, which is fantastic news for any bass anglers.

Devils Canyon can be a great fishing spot in spring, especially if you are using a moving bait.

In addition to the rocks, there is also submerged vegetation and standing wood in Quail Flat. So it’s terrific news for any bass you may be hoping to catch in this area. Smallmouth bass often comes here in spring to spawn, so it’s an excellent place to check out.


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New Melones Lake Map

How to Get to New Melones Lake

The lake is fairly accessible. Taking CA-49 north from Sonora, you’ll arrive at New Melones Lake in about 15 minutes.

The roadway spans the Stanislaus River Arm of the lake as it heads south from Angels Camp, and the area beneath the CA-49 bridge is a favorite shore fishing place.

New Melones Lake is a little over an hour and a half drive from Stockton and Modesto and about an hour and a half drive from Sacramento.

Camping Areas

Visitors can find several hundred tents and RV spots in the Tuttletown area and the Glory Hole recreation area.

There are no electrical connections here. However, showers, water fountains, campfire rings, and picnic tables exist. You can also find many campsites on the lake’s shore.

All sites operate on the first come, first served principle, but you can also make a reservation.

You can easily find many miles of paths suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian riding in the region around the lake.

Boat Launch Ramps

The New Melones Lake Visitor Center, Angels Creek, Tuttletown Recreation Area, and Glory Hole Recreation Area include public boat launch ramps for the lake.

The most frequently used ramps are the Glory Hole and Tuttletown ramps. They include convenient amenities, including paved parking lots, courtesy docks, and fish-cleaning facilities. You’ll be charged a small amount to get started.

Note that the recreation areas mentioned above are locked and fenced after dark.

There is just one marina on New Melones Lake that offers full service. In addition to providing boat rentals and docking space at Glory Hole Recreation Area, the marina also has a fully supplied convenience shop filled with bait, gear, ice, snacks, and other necessities.


New Melones Lake is one of the finest places for fishing in California, especially if you like to fish from a boat or kayak. Numerous species will make any fishermen enjoy casting a line. Get ready for excellent fishing, grab your fishing gear and sunscreen, and head to New Melones Lake!

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