Fishing with Noble: The Comeback of Lake Isabella

Fishing with Noble / Noble Smith

It seems that the great Isabella Lake is in a little slump. I have been fishing Isabella Lake since the mid-60s. I have witnessed all of the scenarios. High water, slow fishing, high water, great fishing. Low water, slow fishing, low water, great fishing.
Back in the day when Isabella was the largest freshwater lake in Southern California, I had some great days on the water. I also had many not-so-great days on the water.
I can remember one of my early trips to Lake Isabella for crappie fishing. My dad and I left L.A. about 2 o’clock in the morning. We arrived just in time to have breakfast at the Dam Korner #1 and then to Scottie’s Marina to rent an aluminum fishing boat.
We took the boat straight across the lake to a row of old trees just because they looked good. I was very young at the time. Dad had to rig my bobber and meal worm setup for me. I had five large crappie on the stringer before my dad had a chance to cast. We brought home a lot of fish that day.
I remember another great day fishing right after I had bought my bass boat. My son-in-law and I went out to catch some bass. Now that we had a bass boat, we were pretty confident we were going to tear up the bass.
Armed with our shad pattern crank baits, we headed to Lyme Dyke. Shad were thick in that area, so we figured the bass were too. The first cast produced a beautiful 3-pound trout. The second, third, fourth and fifth cast brought the same results. The school of trout were so thick, several fish at a time would swim towards our lures. It was an easy ten fish limit, and we caught and released many more.
Back in the mid-80s, my dad and I took his bass boat out for an afternoon bass fishing trip. We decided to fish shallow water back in the South Fork near the bird sanctuary. We got into a school of 2- and 3-pound bass that would not quit. I am sure we caught and released over a hundred bass that evening. We also came home with at least a thousand mosquito bites. Take the bad with the good.
I will never forget when my in-laws bought their motorhome. They decided to make their maiden voyage to Lake Isabella for a family camping trip. We all went out to Camp Nine. It was summer, so I decided to grab a few rods and do a little catfishing.
Later that evening, sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight, the cats started hitting. I am glad I brought extra rods and reels. Every family member got a shot at catching catfish. Everyone caught fish that night.
It was great seeing my sister-in-law cutting open clam shells so we could bait up. She had never fished before that night or probably since that night. We caught a lot of fish that night.
As for the not-so-great days on the lake, there have been many. Probably more than the great days. I just don’t remember them as well.
Isabella Lake remains one of the best freshwater fisheries in Southern California. All of these great days happened in four different decades and with four different species of fish. Up or down, Isabella will provide many years of great fishing.
I know one weekend that will produce some great fishing action. The Isabella Lake Fishing Derby on March 24, 25 and 26. There will be a lot of great fishing memories made that weekend.
We still need to hope and pray for winter storms over the next few months. I would love to see our lake rise to a high level this summer. I plan on fishing a lot this spring and summer looking for that next great day. No matter what the lever is, see you on the water.

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