Del Valle Offers Rainbows, Kokanee And Salmon
Written By: Dan Bacher, March 12, 2013
Species: Trout, Kokanee, Landlocked Salmon,
Location: Del Valle Reservoir,
Lake Del Valle, a popular fishery located 10 miles south of Livermore off Interstate 580 in the hills of Alameda County, hosts three species of salmonids – rainbow trout, king salmon and kokanee salmon.
The reservoir is surrounded by over 5,000 acres of beautiful oak-covered hills at an altitude of 745 feet. The water level at Del Valle Lake fluctuates seasonally from a high of 703 feet in the summer to a low of 678 feet in the winter. The lake stretches for 5 miles and has 16 miles of shoreline.
The lake stands out among Bay Area lakes in being located at the edge of a wilderness area. The Del Valle State Recreation Area provides one of three staging areas and vehicle parking lots that give access to the 9,737 acre Ohlone Regional Wilderness.
When you are fishing at Del Valle, you get the impression of being in a much more remote region as you view the high mountains, topped by 3,817 foot Rose Peak, forested with white pines and oaks, surrounding you.
The lake also has the distinction of being one of two lakes in the state, including New Hogan, where striped bass have spawned successfully. The stripers spawned in the lake’s south end where Arroyo Del Valle enters the lake during the spring of 2004 and 2005, according to Pete Alexander, the East Bay Regional Park District program manager.
“We haven’t documented any stripers spawning in the creek itself, but have seen them spawning in the area where the creek water enters the lake,” said Alexander. “The flows and water temperatures there mimic those of the Delta.”
In spite of the relatively large population of striped bass, the rainbow trout, king salmon and kokanee populations are doing very well, in spite of earlier concerns that the stripers might make a big dent in trout, salmon, bass and other fish populations. The park district plants the reservoir with big rainbows, while the DFG stocks the reservoir with fingerling chinooks and kokanee salmon and catchable rainbow trout.
“We conducted a study of the stomach contents of 12 stripers in the 18 to 20 inch class,” said Alexander. “We found only forage fish, including threadfin shad and inland silversides, in the fish.”
The recreation area staff has also talked with anglers what they have found in the bellies – and trout, surprisingly, have only been rarely found in the fish. “Again here, anglers have found mainly shad and silversides in the fish,” he stated.
Regular trout plants by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife take place from October through May. In addition, East Bay Regional Park District has a supplement fishing program which promotes the stocking of trout from the fall until spring and catfish in the summer. The revenue generated from the sales of the fishing permits allows the District to stock rainbow trout and channel catfish (each fish between 2-10 lbs) on a weekly basis.
For trout, bank anglers should use Berkley PowerBait, Power Eggs, and Gulp Trout Worms in an array of colors including white, chartreuse, rainbow, spring green, orange and bubble gum. Pautzke Fire Bait in a variety of colors and nightcrawlers are also highly effective baits.
Trollers should use Kastmasters, Rapalas, Cripplures, Hum Dingers, Ex-Cel spoons, Stingfish, Flatfish, Uncle Larry’s spinners, Sep’s Pro Secrets, hoochies and other trout lures, varying the depths depending upon the time of year.
Although Del Valle produces huge rainbows every year, it will be hard to top the lake record of 23 pounds set by Sam Taylor in May of 2007.
The DFW planted 14,994 chinook fingerlings and 29,862 kokanee in Del Valle in 2012, providing anglers with the only chance to nail these salmon in the Bay Area other than Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County.
“Relatively few anglers target the adults of these species which prefer the deepest section of the reservoir near the dam and in Hetch Hetchy Cove,” according to Alexander and Joe Sullivan, Fisheries Resource Analyst, in the Del Valle Fisheries Report 2011. “A few of these salmon are caught each year by trout anglers.”
Trollers can use a variety of lures and spinners to catch both species, although chinook salmon are also taken by anglers bait fishing for trout. Remember that the kokanee salmon will be found at depths below the trout, while the kings will be concentrated even deeper.
Larry Lopez of Hayward shattered the lake inland chinook record with a 9 pounder caught in June 2003. Kevin Smith of San Mateo set the lake kokanee salmon record with a 1 lb. 10 oz. fish landed on September 15, 2007.
In addition to the trout, salmon and stripers, the lake also features good populations of other popular gamefish species.
“Del Valle hosts the most diverse fisheries of any Bay Area lake or reservoir,” emphasized Alexander and Sullivan. Besides rainbow trout, kokanee and kings, the lake features channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie, striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, as well as several other species of fish.
“Fish catch rates were highest in 2010 and 2011,” they stated. “Largemouth bass comprised the most numerous fish species captured in Del Valle from 2008 to 2011, except in 2010 when large numbers of inland silversides were observed.”
The size class distributions of largemouth bass looked very good for all years, with high numbers of juveniles and adults as a result of successful spawning and recruitment, according to Alexander and Sullivan.
Based on catches by anglers, the smallmouth population appears to have had a strong year class in 2009. “That year class has grown to 200 – 300 mm size range in 2011 and should constitute a strong fishery over the next few years,” they stated.
Bluegill size class distributions suggest this population is remaining very stable with good numbers of juveniles and adults present.
“As largemouth bass numbers increase, we can expect to see greater competition and predation pressure on this species as well as other members of the sunfish family,” he noted. “Inland silverside numbers greatly increased the last two years and this important forage fish may be supporting several gamefish populations as well as piscivorous birds such as Western and Clark’s grebes at Del Valle.”
Due to the large number of stripers swimming in Del Valle now, striper fishing has also been good in recent years for anglers using anchovies, sardines and an array of lures from boats and shore. Bill Foland of Sunol set the lake striper record when he bagged a 40 lb. fish in March, 1989.
The bass and sunfish populations and the robust forage fish base that feeds the salmon and trout are the beneficiaries of an ambitious habitat project started over 20 years ago by Jon Walton, owner of Walton’s Pond in San Leandro.
While rainbow trout draw the most attention at Del Valle, you never know what you might catch while you’re soaking trout fishing. Just ask Herman Kameda of San Jose, who nailed a 25 lb. 1 ounce white sturgeon, the current lake record, while bait fishing for trout on December 7, 2006.Back To Reports