Now here’s something you don’t see everyday in Northern California. In the wintertime in Mount Shasta, visitors to Castle Lake are given the opportunity usual only seen on the frozen lakes of Minnesota – ice fishing!
Castle Lake is full of small brook trout and some sizable rainbow trout. In the winter, the presentation of a warm, fresh worm to these fish can make fishing quite the lucrative endeavor. Be sure to adhere to the five fish limit, even if that shortens your day significantly.
Heading out to Castle Lake, which is about a 15 minute drive south of Mount Shasta, you’ll need a few basic items – a fishing pole (bring multiple if you want to fish multiple holes), a hard object to break through frozen holes (shovel, crowbar), something to scoop excess ice out of the water, fishing weights and night crawlers (worms). Also, chairs and a warm drink will make your day much more comfortable. If all the gates to the lake are open, you should be able to drive all the way to the parking lot on the lake.
First and foremost, checking to see if the ice is deep enough is crucial to safety. The ice should be at least 4 inches thick before you walk out on the lake. Please take any precautions needed to stay safe on the frozen lake.
When you walk out on the lake, typically you’ll find plenty of predrilled holes in ice that you can choose from to fish. We chose a group of holes close to each other so we could fish multiple holes at once. Dig out the holes and scoop out the excess ice to make it easy to drop in the worms and subsequently pull out the fish.
You’ll want to attach weights on your line about 12 to 18 inches from the hook, and get your worm set up right. Then, just drop the worm down about 10 feet into the chilly water and you can either leave it or jiggle it occasionally to stoke attention. It’s best to use junior worms, because the smaller fish might simply nibble on the edges of the bigger worms with grabbing the hook.
Note: The first time I dropped a worm into the hole, I had a fish on the line before it got down to my desired depth:
After the initial rush of dropping your line into the water, you can set up your poles on your chair and just relax with a warm drink and good company. Keep an eye on the pole to reel in the fish when they come in!
Ultimately, ice fishing on Castle Lake is unlike any fishing I’ve ever done in Northern California – it’s sort of a lazy man’s sport. But it’s a great change of pace from the typically immersive experience of fly fishing. And it would be a great activity for any parents looking to get their kids into fishing.
Watch our experience ice fishing on Castle Lake:
Zach O’Brien is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Active NorCal