Take a tour of Kern County Fish'N with Google Earth
|Kern County Fish'N|
|Hobo and Sandy Flats Campground|
|Democrat Dam and China Gardens|
|Keyes Campground Area|
This huge deep lake offers a lot of fishing for the novice and the experienced anglers. Miles and miles of shoreline that you are able to drive your car, truck or R.V. straight up to the shoreline. You will see a lot of R.V. stacked up all along the smoother eastern side. The entire lake is void of all tree lines around the lake with no structures to provide shade. However that doesn’t stop the fisherman from lining the shoreline. What a lot of people do is cast out and retreat back to their vehicles and wait for the bite. Others start trolling early A.M. and quit around 10:30 or 11:00 A.M. when the wind starts. The wind blows here year round from a 10:00 A.M. start until 7:00 P.M. or so. A great spring and summer lake, if done right you will catch a lot of fish. Trolling leadcore or mono around all the humps and lake structure will be your best bet from a boat. Since this lake is so full of Shad and Crappie, a Needle Fish Shad pattern works real well. Power bait off the bottom is the choice method if fishing from shore. Inflated night crawlers work well for the warmer months. The Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass start to bite once the water gets warm. There are some huge bass in this lake. Trolling is a very good method using either lead core line or downriggers. What surprises most people is the Crappie bite in the springtime. You will find a lot of Crappie hanging in the sticks and brush piles where the Kern River enters the lake. Lots of water flows up into the trees and shrubs and this is where the Crappie go. The Crappie stay around the one or two pound range, however there are a lot of bigger ones hanging around. The Trout are a different story, they get huge! The DFG is constantly stocking Trout in the Kern River and Lake Isabella which makes it a fantastic fishery. The only problem with this lake is the mighty winds. If you figure out a way to beat that, you got it made. Every March there is a Trout Derby held on the lake with around 4,000 pounds of stocked Trout in less than a two week period. There are a lot of Trophy Size planters stocked as well, with some fish that are “tagged” for the winners to collect prizes and cash. The Kern County Parks Department puts in a lot of the larger stocked fish during this time; they also operate the “Lake Patrol”. The Forest Service has an office on the lake and one in Kernville just a few miles away. Everybody fishes this lake from bait caster, trolling and fly fishing and everybody catches fish.
South Fork Kern River
Most of the land that borders the South Fork is either private or part of a wildlife preserve. Home to cattle ranchers and farmers, a lot of the access is cut off. You can park and hike all of the area that is in Kern County. During good run off years you can try and target the trout and carp that come up from Lake Isabella. There are no roads going north into Tulare County following along the South Fork. Your best bet is to come in from the north in Tulare County via the Dome Land Wilderness; the South Fork is more active the further north you go. You will have to draw permits for gaining access to this area. There are both man made and natural barriers that the DFG uses to help separate the stocked fish from the naturals. The DFG has done a tremendous job at maintaining such a fine fishery. Not too much on the South Fork of the Kern River, because most of the river is in Tulare County which is not covered by this narrative.
Lower Kern River:
The Kern River gets its head start at the base of Mount Whitney. The river forms what is known as the Kern Canyon and tumbles its way into Lake Isabella, an area where both the Kern River and the South Fork of the Kern River both meet. The river continues its course from the dam and spillway and flows past Bakersfield. Along the course of this section the river helps form lakes, ponds and the aqua duct system. Most of the Kern River from the Johnsondale Bridge in Tulare County on down south is fishable all year long with spring and summer being the best time. There is a guide service in Kernville called “Kern River Trout Fitters” They can be reached at 866-347-4876 or at www.kerntroutfitters.com. The service is run out of Kern River Fly Shop located in Kernville. The owner offers the guide service along with an impressive fly fishing store that will meet almost all of your needs. There is also an impressive video titled “----“ put out by the owner. It is around 30 minutes long and puts you through the steps necessary to find, fight and catch Trout all along the Lower Kern River. With all this area that the Kern River covers, it is a small task to cover and mention everything about this impressive river. Just as the Sespe and the Sisquoc Rivers along the coast, this river is long, full of water, fish and surprising events. Most of my time has been spent on the Lower Kern with Hobo Campground being the most visited. The Lower Kern offers so much diversity that you really can’t go wrong with whatever you do. All the way from Democrat Dam south to Live Oak and both Richbar areas offers some exciting Smallmouth Bass fishing. Above this section towards Lake Isabella offers the chance at some fine Trout fishing water. The water levels fluctuate with all the spring run off a releases from Lake Isabella. This area is supplemented with Trout stocks from the DFG Hatchery located in Kernville. This hatchery also provides stocks to all local lakes and streams, which are far too numerous to list. A very good fly fishing fly is called the “Kern Emerger” and can be found just about anywhere, but mainly at the Kern River Fly Shop. A big Stonefly or Hellgrammite pattern works wonders for the bigger Trout and Bass. One thing to concern you with is the fact that this is a wild river in the middle of the wilderness. Even though you might close to a road or a business, it still can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. There have been over 300 drowning deaths in the Lower Kern, so always be careful.
Kern River Fly Shop
Upper Kern River:
I would consider the upper Kern River starting at Lake Isabella and going north. The Kern River runs right through the town of Kernville, the DFG stocks mostly year round in this area. There is a park called Riverside Park that is right on the river and offers fishing access. There is a lot of fishing that goes on here, also a lot of rafts and kayaks enter the river and head south to the lake. Riverside Park has a lot of picnic sites, grills, playground, clean restrooms and fish. You will see fly fishing and bait fishing all along the shore and lots of picnics going on too. The locale fly shop is called Kern River Fly Shop and can be reached at (866)- 347-4876 or log onto www.kernriverflyfishing.com. This shop has the most current up to date information on this area. Not only operating a fly fishing shop, they also offer guided fishing tours all along the Upper, Lower Kern, Lake Isabella and the South Fork of the Kern River. Above Kernville there is an electrical power house that gets plenty of stocks and offers great shore access. Heavy stocks go in here and the anglers have a good time going after their limits. This area is very popular with fly fishing and float rafts fishing the river. You will see these huge pipelines coming out of the hills, these carry water to the power house to generate electricity. As you can imagine the water flows increase dramatically below the power house. Fishing this entire area is fun and rewarding. Going on up further on Highway 99 you will see numerous access points to the river. All the way up the Kern River into Tulare County to just below Johnsondale Bridge is fishable year round without any special regulations. When in Kernville you have got to have a meatball sandwich from Primo’s Deli. Word of caution, lunch is always busy and don’t get a large it is just way too big for one person. Primo’s Deli has a great reputation for great food, good service and big smiles, you have got to stop by. For dinner we found out that the Pizza Barn is a good place to be if you have kids. Games, great food, drinks and a fun atmosphere you just can’t go wrong here. There are too many places to visit in this area, food and places to stay are everywhere. We stayed at The Kern Lodge, a rustic single cabin type of place full of a rustic feel. The owners tell you a story of Murphy the kleptomaniac who will acquire anything that is left laying around. The only problem is Murphy is a dog and very friendly. A fun place to visit and fish, I can’t wait to get back there and fish.
A shallow lake with the deepest part at the dam of only 30 feet. No boats, kayaks, float tubes allowed on the lake. First built in 1958 as a skier’s lake, and until about 10 years ago that was the case. Fishing is allowed from shore only, and you can not fish from the fenced off dock areas. Stocked with generous amounts of Trout during the winter, this is when the lakes becomes it’s busiest. You will see people lined up along the south shore catching easy limits of nice size Trout. After the weather warms up in the spring and early summer, the Trout bite goes away. The Largemouth Bass population is strong with a lot of bass under 3 pounds. There is some structure on the north shore area and that area does produce. Most people ride bikes over to that side of the lake and cast up and under the branches. The pan fish stay a little bit on the smaller size with a few one pound fish caught every now and then. The most productive areas are the south shore before the dam and all along the north shore in the trees and shrubs. You can not fish from the dam or from the west end bike path. No store or supplies sold and no entrance fee, even when the trout stocks go in. Try calling Bob’s bait Bucket, listed above for further fishing info. Next to Lake Ming is the Kern River Campground which does border the Kern River. So if you are looking for a place to camp out and enjoy the area, this may be the best spot for that to happen. Run by the State of California Parks Department, you will have to either go on line or call ahead to make reservations. The phone numbers are listed in the back of the site.
Buena Vista Lakes
Lake Webb is larger with boats, skiers, P.W.C., the usual summer fan fare and water sports. Lake Evans is smaller with Trout stocks in the winter only. Stocking is from November until the end of February. Lake Evans has a 15-25 M.P.H. limit for fishing boats. Float tubes, kayaks, canoes are all welcome. At Lake Evans wait until late afternoon towards dusk and into the early part of the night to target the Largemouth Bass and large Crappie population that is found in this lake. There are quite a few hot spots to fish from, some on the border between the two lakes and the others are scattered through out. You can also fish the water entrance to these two lakes as well, a very popular place to soak some bait. Stocked with Trout during the winter and very popular during spring break, this park will get full. People from all over come here to visit and to fish. The one thing that surprised me the most was the appearance of all the restrooms surrounding Lake Evans. All are new and completely tiled from floor to ceiling. Very clean, fully stocked and taken care of, something you don’t normally see at a fishing lake. Buena Vista Lakes are fed by the Kern River via a series of canals and aqueducts. They will fill these areas when the water is low in the lakes or when the Kern River rises in the spring. That is when the bite goes crazy and people flock to the lakes to take advantage of the super strong bite. The Crappie where never stocked in these lakes but came downstream from Lake Isabella and have established themselves very well. Going out the back side of the park you will come to a gate that is marked “Exit Only” set up with spike strips as well. As you exit the park you will come to a couple of canals and then the aqueduct system for L.A. County. This is where a lot of people go to fish for Striped Bass and Catfish. You can see people lined up all along the banks. Just remember that you are in Kern County and the size for Stripers is 18” inches or larger with a two fish limit. The Stripers have gotten into both lakes and are not near as plentiful as in other areas. They have come from the canals and aqueduct systems. Since there isn’t a constant movement of water in either lake, the Stripers don’t have much of a chance to repopulate. The size of the Stripers vary, but none are the smaller size “schoolies” that you may find elsewhere. Dotted with islands and lots of structure you will see how come this is a good pan fish lake. We stayed one night at a very full campsite, right on the lake. Tossed out some night crawlers and ended up with some Catfish. A very good place to spend some time with the kids and toss in a line or two.
Hart Park Lake:
Stocked with Rainbow Trout during the winter months with supplemented stocks by the county. These rather shallow lakes gets busy with people going after the Trout. Once the water starts to warm up, the Bass bite does too. Full of three to six pound Bass, you will always have the chance to fish for them. The Carp are not only big but very numerous in both of the lakes. The Crappie and Bluegill start to bite after the Bass have spawned and you will be able to see their beds starting to form up. There are numerous inlets and coves to fish all along the shore with lots of structure to cast to. The Catfish make a strong showing in the summer and you can see people lined up all along the shoreline fishing for them. Picnic tables, bar-b-cue grills, and clean restrooms are numerous. One the strangest things I encountered here was the strong showing of a lot of different birds to include, domesticated Geese, Canada Geese, Mallards, Teals, Herons and large Peacocks. The park has lots of green grassy areas with long paved trails winding through the park. The Kern River borders the park and offers the chance at some Smallmouth Bass and Catfish. One of the nicer parks in Southern Kern County with lots of fishing to offer. There is a building that at one time was a small store, it is all boarded up now and I was told it would not reopen. I would like the chance to hook into some of the Carp that roam these two lakes, they are that huge. We saw enormous schools of Carp swimming in the shallows, I would estimate that almost all of them were over 10 pounds. I tried to hook into one of those beast with my fly rod using the same techniques that are used for Carp in the San Diego City Lakes. I was able to get a few hits, however no takers. What fun that would be on a fly rod, this is just my opinion but I think that Carp are the hardest fighting fish in fresh water. My eight year old son was able to target and land a three pound Bass, man was he excited! Something I will always remember about that trip, just the look on his face and the shouts of surprise. There is an extensive weed bed that extends out nearly 50 feet and as deep as 25 feet, so there are times when you are dragging in a lot of grass with each cast. Just before the entrance to Kern Canyon and the Kern River, this is a stopping off point in the spring time for a lot of locales.
Upper and Lower Richbar areas:
Both the Upper and Lower Richbar Areas are day use areas only, no overnight camping. Both offer restrooms, picnic tables, bar-b-cue grills, burn pits, trash cans. Both areas are self registering using a self pay “Iron Ranger” system. That is a steel device that has people fill out an envelope and deposit the money into a slot on the steel tube. This is a very common method used a lot throughout the National Forest. Don’t think that you can get away without paying because they are check a couple times a day. The upper area has quite a few sandy beach areas that are popular in the summer months. Surrounded by granite boulders both large and small with walkways and trails that are rock lined. Lots of vegetation and trees with some spring time flowers planted here and there. Believe me the flowers are out in force and my sinus allergies suffered a lot during the spring. Catfish are a draw in this area but don’t be surprised to hook into something else as well. The water was deep and cold when we visited this area, despite the cold water there were rafters around. The top bait choice for Catfish was frozen Anchovies or cut Mackerel. For Bass and Trout various spinner baits, worms, or live night crawlers proved to work the best with crank baits taking a back seat in this area. Fly fishing always does well in these areas despite the current and water activity. A large hellgrammite pattern fished on the bottom works very well for the Bass and Trout. A lot of people soak power bait for the Trout and do very well. Most of the shoreline above and below these areas are rocky steep cliffs. There are a lot of turnouts all along the road but even they offer little access to the river raging below. A very popular place to visit with both areas becoming quite crowded at times. These two areas are in the national forest so watch out for snakes and other wildlife. Using live Shad for bait is also very effective, if you are able to keep the line in the slow moving current and not the rapids. A lot of people use shiners and shad for bait and do very well, since these bait fish come downstream from Lake Isabella and sustain a strong population in the river system.
Located in the same area as Lower Richbar, you will see the sign for Live Oak before you get to Lower Ricbar. Picnic tables, bar-b-cue grills, restrooms are all available. This area is also run and operated by the NationalForest. Same pay system as the other sites operated by the National Forest. What separates this spot from the rest is the calmer flow of water, not as strong as the other areas upriver. A good area for Smallmouth Bass and the Trout that make it this far downstream. Catfish are also a good choice here as well with most people using cut baits or night crawlers. During the warm summer months this area as well as the others nearby get busy. Your best fishing here is very early morning or evening with no one making a lot of river noise. The bugs come out in force so be prepared and use bug spray. High water flow is during the spring melt which could go all the way until June. I like this section better around September, fewer crowds and hungry fish. You are able to hunt for crayfish, but watch for snakes.
Hobo and Sandy Flats Campgrounds:
Hobo and Sandy Flats are great fishing areas. Stocked by the DFG for the most part all year long providing the roads are open, there are always fish to be had at both locations. Sandy Flats offers a more versatile approach to the water with some deeper pools and large boulders in the current. Hobo offers more of a slower deeper section of the river with more cut banks and overhangs. There is even a more versatile section of water at Miracle Hot Springs which is just below Hobo Campground area. Big rapids, deep pools, plunges through boulders, this area offers one of the many “whitewater raft” launch sites. Fishing is available in all these areas, however wading is only going to be available near Sandy Flats area. Crayfish are abundant in this area as well and make great live bait once you are able to catch a few. A good crayfish fly would work well here in the early A.M. light. Even though the water is deep and the current strong, there are fish to be had that are in the current. As with all canyons in SoCal, the wind is a major factor and that is no exception here. The wind picks up around 12:00 noon and stops around 8:00 P.M. Depending on what time of year you are there, the wind will keep you cool in the hot weather and cold in the winter. Another factor to consider during the warmer months are the insects that live near the water. Since you are on the water you will be dealing with the mosquitoes. A strong insect repellent is required while near the water. There is also an abundance of wildlife in the area as well, so be careful if out walking some of the trails along the river and have your food stores properly taken care of. Fires are permitted during in the overnight areas and we saw some real nice ones burning all night long. Power bait and salmon eggs are the choice for bait fishers going after the trout, while night crawlers and cut baits are best for catfish and others. Overall a super fun place to spend the day or night, always busy during the spring and summer. Fly fishing is popular and a lot of people will either drift fish with an indicator or Czech style nymphing, both work well here. We spent two days fishing and hiking all around this area and never had a dull time. Calling ahead for reservations is not a bad idea.
Democrat Dam and China Gardens
Both areas are parking areas only and offer trails down to the river, and I mean down to the river. Democrat Dam is by all means a dam, built to control the water flowing down stream after the spring thaws. This thick section of rock wall offers something different. It forms a small lake type reservoir behind it, a favorite place for bait fisherman. From the parking lot at China Garden you can see the off road trails leading down to the river, however a lot of the access to these roads have been blocked off by the forest service. Not too sure on the access limits for vehicles in this area, before driving in you better check first. There are still active hot springs along the river with Democrat Hot Springs being the most famous. There is also an old gold mine nearby that may offer some chance at panning for gold in the slower parts of the river, you can still see the old mule trail through the forest and hill sides. Even after 100 years, the trails are still there, maybe that is the reason for no vehicle access. Quite a bit of a hike to overcome, all downhill getting there and all uphill getting back. Not recommended for kids or for people not in shape, bring plenty of water for the hike out. A water filter system is not a bad idea for this area, the water is very clean and with a good system you could have bottles full of cold water for the hike out. Always keep a watchful eye out for rattlesnakes, there are quite a few of them around here as well as other wildlife. Calling ahead to the Democrat Springs Ranger Station is a good idea to find out the latest info and to even purchase an Adventure Pass if you need to. The fish tend to be a bit on the larger side and are a lot more elusive. The shad that get washed down from Lake Isabella seem to thrive here as well offering the fish a chance at a good meal. The crayfish are plentiful at night along the rocky shoreline and undercut banks. There is always something going on in this area of the river when it comes to fishing. The best time of the year is at the end of September and October when the water levels are not at full rapid stages and it is not so hot outside. Camping is available at nearby Hobo Campground.
Below Lake Isabella-Keyes Campground Area.
A wonderful area full of campsites, picnic areas, burn pits, restrooms. River access is everywhere, so all you have to do is pick a spot. There is a fair amount of gold panning going on in this area, and you will see people working the slower sections of the river. This area of the river is fast and deep, coming right out of the spillway from Lake Isabella. There are signs that warn people to stay off the rocks, more people drown each year in this area than anywhere else on the river. The current is fast and strong and will pull you under in no time at all, there is a sign that says that 368 people have drowned here. There are dirt roads all over the place from the paved sections, taking you here and there. You will see well used campsites, and plenty of people taking advantage of that. The DFG stock a lot of trout in this area, that along with the massive amounts of holdover fish make for some interesting fishing. Not a lot of bait fishers since the current is so strong, mostly spinners, kastmaster and the like. Not a lot of fly fisherman either since the current is so wicked. Lots of huge granite boulders to climb around on, so watch out for snakes and other wildlife. I would not even try to get on top of a boulder facing the river, one slip and you are a goner. If fishing near the river I would highly recommend wearing a life vest or PFD. Rafters launch from various sections around here as well, you will see the signs posted. Lots of trees for shade, lots of wind to cool you down and lots of bugs to keep you asking yourself why you are here, well the fish of course! They get huge feeding on the baitfish as they get washed downstream from the dam. Many “football” shaped trout and bass have been caught here over the years, growing fat and big on all the wounded baitfish. The rocks along the shoreline offer some interesting points of view as well. Holes carved in the rock by the force of the water, deep “bathtub” looking holes filled with clear water. However do be extremely careful in this area and stay away from the river and watch for snakes and other wildlife as well.