Location and Overview
Lake Isabella sits at an elevation of 2500 feet in Kern County, CA, roughly 40 miles north of Bakersfield up SR 178(check out the map). The lake offers anglers 11,200 acres of surface area at full capacity, bounded by 38 miles of shoreline, which means plenty of places to fish! Food, supplies, and lodging can all be had in the town of Lake Isabella, located just south of the lake itself on highway 178.
Fishermen rate Lake Isabella:
Fishin’ Lake Isabella
While Lake Isabella marks the division between the upper and lower Kern River, known for world-class trout fishing, the lake offers anglers a chance to fish for a variety of other species as well. Along with lots of brown trout and hatchery rainbows, there is also excellent fishing here for bass, catfish, and crappie. In fact, the crappie spawning run here each spring is widely known as one of the best crappie fishing opportunities in California. Locals recommend trying a crappie jig suspended 18 inches or so below a float to knock ’em dead. Kastmasters also work well during the winter months. The key here, no matter the season, is working your lure around structure where the fish like to hold.
Trout fishing is typically best from December through April or early May, and most of the trout fall to Powerbait or nightcrawlers fished 18 to 24 inches below a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce sliding sinker. Locals also report good luck with Rooster Tails and Kastmasters fished near the dams. Trout fishermen have easy access from here to the fish-filled waters of the upper Kern River as well.
The California Department of Fish and Game has the latest trout planting information on their website.
Catfish bite well on a variety of baits including fresh shad, cut mackerel, and anchovies. The best season for them is usually August through November. While they can be found just about anywhere in the lake, your best bet is usually to look for them around dropoffs, according to local anglers.
For largemouth bass, try crankbaits such as Model A’s and Rat-L-Traps early in the season, along with chartreuse or white spinnerbaits, then switch to 6-8 inch plastic worms in dark colors such as black, purple and brown for summertime. Locals recommend working around major points in 5 to 25 feet of water year round and hitting the flats during the spring spawning season.
There are several boat launch facilities located around the lake, as well as two full-service marinas – North Fork Marina and French Gulch Marina. Both of these offer boat rentals, launch ramps, and on-site stores. If you plan on bringing your own boat to Lake Isabella, be aware that you must purchase a boating permit (see the Kern County Parks website or call (760) 379-2806 for more information).
Lake Isabella Weather
At an elevation of about 2500 feet, Lake Isabella is a year-round fishing destination, with high temperatures ranging from the 40’s during the winter months up to 100 degrees in summer, with average summertime highs in the 80’s. Conditions on the lake are often windy, so boaters should judge conditions carefully and check forecasts before going out.
Click here to see current weather conditions and forecasts for the town of Lake Isabella.
Several campgrounds and RV parks are located around the lakeshore, offering easy access to the fishing as well as a place to pitch a tent. Camping and rental cabins are also available in the nearby Sequoia National Forest.
Lake Isabella is open to fishing all year, 24 hours a day. The following bag limits and minimum size limits apply:
Trout – 5 fish, no minimum size.
Catfish – No limit, no minimum size.
Crappie – 25 fish, no minimum size.
Bass – 2 fish, 15-inch minimum size.
The California Department of Fish and Game has the complete, current fishing regulations on their website.