San Pablo Dam Reservoir
7301 San Pablo Dam Rd, El Sobrante, CA
Phone: (510) 223-1661
Map: Aerial Map
Size: 866 acres
Water Level: Monthly Report from CDEC
Depth: Appx 100'
Species: trout(stocked), largemouth bass, spotted bass, catfish(stocked), crappie, bluegill, sturgeon, carp
Fees: $3.25 daily fishing permit, $5.50 to park in the lot, $5 launch fee
Boating: gas motors ok (4-stroke ONLY), float tubes ok but area-restricted, kickboats not allowed
Pros: large and numerous trout catfish and crappie, giant bass, no water/jet skiing
Cons: tough bass fishing, excessive fees, ridiculous regulations, crowds (trout), muddy water, windy
Description: San Pablo is a big scenic lake with good access. It has probably the best overall fishing for a bay area lake for every species of fish. The good trout fishing is no secret which can make it a zoo on spring weekends. The weather is cool year round and often windy. The water temperature stays around 70 degrees through the summer. The bottom composition is mainly dirt, which makes the lake fairly muddy year round. Some years being clearer than others. There is a little bit of everything as far as cover goes. Some rock, wood, tulies, and weeds. But for the most part the bottom is clean. The lake is closed from mid November through mid February.
Besides the cool weather and muddy banks, San Pablo has a few more strikes against it. It costs 5-10 dollars more to fish here than it would at the average Santa Clara county lake. On top of the unavoidable $5.50 parking fee you also have to pay $3.25 for a "fishing permit".
It gets even worse with the fishing and boating regulations. First of all, live bait besides night crawlers are not allowed. I haven't heard a good reason why yet. This place would be one of the best lakes in the state to throw live crawdads for trophy largemouths. And considering that the lake is already loaded with crawdads I couldn't see any threat of introducing new species. The DFG has thought all this through already and assigned appropriate regulations. San Pablo doesn't need any special regs. The East Bay authorities are trying to play DFG and they don't care about collateral damage.
Next on the list of strange San Pablo regs... kickboats. Float tubes are ok. Rubber rafts are ok. Kayaks are ok. Kickboats aren't. This one is so stupid even some of the patrols at the lake will turn a blind eye. But just SOME. Float tubes are allowed. But they have some tight restrictions on what part of the lakes they can use. Apparently float tubers aren't smart enough to cross the lake without dying.
It doesn't stop there, but that's enough ranting...
The Fish: Largemouth bass: San Pablo is a trophy bass lake extreme. That is... extremely few bites, extremely big bass. There really isn't any point in fishing San Pablo unless you're fishing for big fish.
As soon as the lake opens in February there can be a great jig bite on main lake wood. Aim for prefrontal weather and work timber very thoroughly with jigs or bulky plastics. In April and May, if the water clears (if if if...), the sight fishing for big fish on their beds can be very good. The preserve and backs of coves are generally the best places to try. As the summer progresses the bite will switch to big trout plugs and swimbaits. The basic idea here is to follow the trout. As the water warms up the trout will head towards the dam and the giant bass will follow. In the fall look for the jig bite to start up again. This would be a killer winter lake. If only it was open...
Spotted bass: The plague has arrived. It seems spotted bass were recently introduced to San Pablo. Although they are still an unusual catch, they are becoming more and more common.
Trout: The trout fishing is excellent at San Pablo. The biggest concern is water clarity and temperature. The season opener can often have water too muddy for good fishing. As the water clears in the spring both trolling and bait fishing will produce well. In the spring the trout are pretty much everywhere. Trolling on top or baitfishing in shallow coves in the midlake area can be productive. Later as the water heats up try the very deep areas near the dam for best results.