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Forsaking expensive houseboat in favor of Hat Creek for fishing

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POSTED June 6, 2011 10:46 p.m.

One of the highlights of my year used to be a four-day houseboat trip in the spring to Lake Shasta. However, in recent years, with the level of the water declining and the cost of fuel increasing, the trip became more work than it was worth. It is one thing to be able to tie up to the trees along the bank at night, but when those trees are 80 feet straight up the bank and the wind pulls out the stake hammered deep into the red clay of the Shasta Lake shore and the houseboat begins to drift into the rocks, suddenly it wasn’t fun any more.

So a few years back, the wife of one of the guys on the trip suggested we get a cabin at Rimrock Ranch Resort in the hamlet of Old Station just north of Mt. Lassen. Hat Creek runs from Lassen some 50 miles to near Burney where it splits PG&E takes advantage of the terrain with powerhouses and reservoirs. The length of Hat Creek is ripe with fishing opportunities, although my favorite spots are near Burney where the water slows down a bit, and in some cases widens out.

When I tell people that I get a cabin to go on a fishing trip, immediately some assume the cabin is like some of the multi-level, multi-million dollar dwellings of Lake Tahoe. To coin an overused phrase, not so much. The cabin we get is dubbed “Big Ugly,” and sleeps nine guys for $130 a night. There are some smaller ones that are not quite as Spartan as Big Ugly, but for a bunch of guys going fishing, it sure beats the $350 per night – plus fuel – that we spent on the houseboat. And we catch much more fish than we ever did at Shasta Lake.

On one excursion this year, my son, a friend of his and I were at my favorite hole – a deep, wide canal that feeds a powerhouse – where we landed 13 fish. (I won’t bother to line out who caught how many, just in case any game wardens are reading this.) To fish this hole, it takes a four-ounce weight dropped to the bottom of the canal with a leader to tease the bait in front of some monster trout – I helped a guy land a four-pound trout, although I was not fortunate enough to catch one that size.

After I cleaned the unlucky 13, the boy and his buddy were going to run into town and I told them that they needed to take some fish with them, since the daily limit is five and I did not need any problems with the law. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, as five minutes after they left a game warden appeared.

I had blood and entrails all over my pants, and he did seem to be particularly enamored with my sarcastic quip, “Honest officer, I didn’t catch anything today.” I showed him the five fish I had cleaned in a plastic bag, and as he meticulously counted each one I thought for a moment there were six in the bag. Had that been the case, I would have been in deep trouble. Fortunately, there were only five.

The trip was successful. I had a good time with my son and was able to deliver an ice chest full of trout to my mom while spending three nights quasi-sleeping under the stars. (I sleep in the back of my truck so I can take in the crisp night mountain air, as opposed to the sound of eight guys snoring.) And lastly, the snow held off until it was time to go home.

While some pictures accompany this piece, nothing can capture the beauty that nature has to offer. That is something you have to see for yourself. If you need directions on how to get to the area (but I will not give up my fishing hole!), email me at davegcampbell@aol.com.

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