Pinecrest Lake: The Best Fishing in the Motherlode Foothills

Summertime is fishing time in my parent’s rural town. A little town where I spent much of my childhood hiking, fishing, and camping. In the Motherlode, fishing is a way of life; it is a beloved hobby. With so many lakes in the region and rivers flowing throughout the foothills, fishing spots are abound, but none are as great as Pinecrest Lake.

Pinecrest Lake is just 30 minutes from Sonora, CA, a rural gold mining town at the base of the foothills. The lake boasts a four mile hiking trail around the lake, camping sites, boat and kayak rentals, and a cute snack shack. Fishing at the front of lake is no good as there are too many sunbathers. The state monitored lake has fishing laws that prevent you from fishing near large crowds.

The real fishing is at the back of the lake near the mouth of the river that pours into the lake. Each summer, Fish and Game release trout into the lake through the inlet and anglers can catch plump, delicious trout perfect for grilling over a campfire or roasting in the oven at home.

You can get to this fishing spot by driving up highway 108 East and following the signs to Pinecrest Lake. The parking is free. Hike 2 miles to the back of the lake. The mouth of the river can be overpopulated with fishermen, so trek a few hundred yards up the river to find peaceful fishing away from tourists. You can hike back even further to God’s Bath, a small fishing hole several more miles back from the river’s mouth.

The best time to go fishing at Pinecrest Lake is from early April through late October. From late fall through early spring, the fish are gone and so is the water because they drain the lake.

During your fishing trip, don’t forget to bring a good hat, sunscreen, a net, and a tackle box because it is along hike back there and back to the car. Moreover, there isn’t a lot of shade throughout the area and a hat will prevent you from getting heat exhaustion or a nasty sunburn.

If you do not catch and release, then you are only allowed to take two fish back with you. Follow this rule, as park rangers will give you a hefty fine if they discovered that you have taken back more than two fish.