Clear Lake is a family place to play
Vacation resorts and campgrounds dot more than 100 miles of shoreline on Clear Lake, Lake County's hub of watery summer fun.
A family vacation destination since the 1880s, when families arrived in stagecoaches, the Clear Lake area is now a major wine region, with more than 40 wineries welcoming visitors to taste their high-elevation - and increasingly highly rated - sauvignon blancs and cabernet sauvignons.
But the lake is the crown jewel of the county. The largest natural freshwater lake in California, Clear Lake is warm and shallow, drawing visitors across the state for its swimming, water-skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding and, most famously, fishing.
Surrounded by vast marshes thick with tules, or bulrushes, where bass, crappie, catfish and crawfish hide, Clear Lake is rated the top bass lake in the state by Bassmaster magazine. The lake is home to more than two dozen fishing tournaments each year, attracting contestants from around the country. The current lake record for bass is 17.5 pounds, with 2 to 4 pounds the average for most anglers; a catfish was recently weighted in at a record-breaking 33-plus pounds.
For more than three decades, family-owned Disney's Boat Rentals in downtown Lakeport has been the main source of bass boats and watercraft, from Jet Skis, wave runners and kayaks to paddleboards and safety gear. The popularity of the various water sports has changed, somewhat, according to Brandon Disney.
“In the past, it was water skiing. Now, it's wave runners, Jet Skis and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards). Our canopied pontoon ‘patio' boats are a great way for a family to cruise the lake in the shade, and the kayaks are perfect for the calm waters along the shorelines,” Disney said.
A good place to find out about fishing conditions, and get gear and advice is Clear Lake Outdoors, a tackle and bait shop near the Konocti Vista Casino.
Among the fishing guides they recommend is Bob Myskey at Bassin' with Bob, who has been teaching beginners and guiding pros to the top fishing spots around the lake for more than 30 years. On the lake most of the year, he reports on what's biting and where, on his website, fishclearlake.com.
In early summer, fishers focus on the Lakeport shoreline around Berger Bay.
When the hot weather sets in, bass are often caught under docks and overhanging trees. The grassy mouth of Kelsey Creek is a popular fishing spot, as are public parks, including Redbud, Library and Lakeside county parks, and Rodman Slough, near Lucerne, a tranquil waterway lined with swampy wetlands alive with fish and birdlife.
Taking four to 10 people at a time out on her pontoon boat to see the abundant water fowl and birdlife around the lake, Eyes of the Wild owner Faith Rigolisi guides bird-fanciers and wildlife photographers.
“They often come to film the amazing courting dances and sounds of the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of grebes.
This is the largest breeding area for these amazing birds. We also see Great Blue herons, cormorants, bald eagles, thousands of White American pelicans in the fall, plus osprey, wood ducks and much more,” she said.
Hosting the larger bass tournaments, Konocti Vista Casino Resort has 90 boat slips, an RV park with a fitness center, a 74-room hotel, and, of course, a casino.
A more laid-back - and much smaller - resort in a tree-shaded waterfront location, Clear Lake Cottages and Marina rents waverunners, bass boats, kayaks, and pontoon boats to guests. Besides 18 super-cute, pet-friendly cabins, the resort has boat slips and a launch ramp, and a saltwater swimming pool.
“Cottages have been right here since at least 1946. New ones replaced the originals, and recently we completely renovated and upgraded them all. We have a new firepit by the lake, and bright red, brand new Adirondack chairs at each cottage. And, we have the highest TripAdvisor and Yelp ratings on Clear Lake!” general manager Bob Vander Woude said.
Scheduled to open on Labor Day weekend, the newly reconstructed Konocti Harbor Resort will offer more than 100 hotel rooms, a restaurant and outdoor bar, an indoor entertainment venue, and a marina. For decades the largest resort on the lake, famous for top-name entertainers in an outdoor amphitheater, the property is now under new ownership, with plans for expansion.
On Soda Bay, Edgewater Resort has tree-shaded RV and tent camping sites, along with cabins, a lakeside swimming pool, a marina and boat launch, a swimming beach (uncommon on this lake), and rentable water craft.
“We are just a little bit old-fashioned and we like it that way. We love kids, we love dogs, and we love families playing volleyball, horseshoes, pingpong, fishing off the pier and all the water sports,” new owner Ken McPherson said.