Fishing and fun

Hugh McPhee teaches the art of fly casting at Uvas

From the guarantee-catch croppie spots of Parkway Reservoir to
the pristine, expansive waters of the San Luis Reservoir, there’s a
little something for everyone when it comes to fishing in and
around the Santa Clara County/San Benito area.
From the guarantee-catch croppie spots of Parkway Reservoir to the pristine, expansive waters of the San Luis Reservoir, there’s a little something for everyone when it comes to fishing in and around the Santa Clara County/San Benito area.

Local residents can consider themselves spoiled when it comes to angling. Weather you’re a seasoned rod-and-reel veteran or an impatient sixth grader looking to do some bobber fishing, it’s all here.

“I think that people who understand the sort of species of fish they’re dealing with here, warm water species, they can have great success here,” said Hugh McPhee, owner of Headwaters School of Fly Fishing. “I see a lot of people out on the water fishing. It’s a great recreational past time and we’ve got a lot of good places to go around here.”

The Castro family of Hollister has been a fishing family for as far back as any of the members can remember. Both Tony Castro and cousin Scott Gemette picked up the sport at an early age when their uncle Gerald DiLaura began taking them out on the water for their first lessons in the art of catching fish.

Now, nearly four decades later, Tony and Scott have made fishing a way of life. Not only for themselves, but for a new generation of the Castro family as their children are coming into their own as fishermen. And while Tony and Scott most look forward to their trips to the Red-Bluff area on the Sacramento River for big freshwater salmon fishing – Scott recently caught a 60-pound salmon on the Sacramento to set a new record for the largest caught in Northern California in eight years – the two cousins still enjoy fishing all of the great local spots. Especially with their kids.

“It’s a blast, wherever we’re fishing,” said Scott Gemette. “And now, the kids are really starting to get it. They’re not just going out there and casting anymore, they’re learning how it works.”

After all, how often can you convince to a child, who might not be too excited to spend a Saturday morning away from cartoons and out on a lake where they may or may not catch anything, that he or she will have out on a boat for the day? You could try taking that child to Hollister’s San Justo Reservoir, which is stocked each month with a fresh plant of trout to guarantee plenty of hits on the end of anyone’s line, regardless of skill level.

For the youngsters, whose attention spans can become non-existent when it comes to the patient art of fishing, there are plenty of options for a sure catch. Parkway Reservoir boasts some of the most active croppie fishing in the area. Kids who come to Parkway can leave their Gameboys at home as they won’t have to deal with a whole lot of down time between bites.

“During the spring, the croppie are everywhere and it’s a good time to bring the kids out,” said Parkway Reservoir park ranger Mike Bacon. “There’s no trick to it, almost anything you throw out there, there’s a real good chance of catching something. And the croppie are really fun to catch, no big trick to it. Just a bobber and a little croppie jig and you’re ready to go.”

Santa Clara County’s Coyote Reservoir receives a massive trout plant over the course of the Spring months. Twice a month, 1,000 pounds of trout are released into the waters at Coyote Reservoir. The north end near the dam is a good spot for trout fishing at Coyote during the early Spring. But as the weather warms, big bass can be found at the south end of the park. For the land lovers who come out to Coyote Reservoir during the summer, great croppie and blue gill fishing can be found by simply hanging around the docks.

Carp can also be found at Coyote, Gilroy’s biggest body of water. While it’s true that carp are basically big goldfish, they can reach up to 15 pounds at Coyote, providing more than enough of a challenge for any casual fisherman. What’s more, carp can be caught by simply drifting a nightcrawler under a bobber.

Then there’s the San Luis. Located just off the Pacheco Pass Highway among the rolling hills of the San Joaquin Valley, the San Luis Reservoir provides as much a challenge for anglers as it does beautiful scenery. Not only does the San Luis Reservoir/O’Neill Forebay offer fishermen striped bass, catfish, blue gill and even sturgeon, it also features some of the wildest wind conditions of any of the area’s fishing spots.

“You’ve got to be careful, the wind can pick up pretty quick out there,” said McPhee, who has caught a 17-pound striper at the reservoir. “I’ve been out there in a Boston Whaler before and was like, ‘holy cow’. It can get pretty gusty out there.”

Campbell Percolation Ponds, in Los Gatos, features a nice park with plenty to do for the whole family. In May, the staff at Campbell stock one of the ponds with massive amounts of huge trout for the annual children’s fishing derby. Some of the fish are specially tagged and bring big prizes for the lucky youngster who makes the catch. But even without the big prizes, pretty much every child who shows up for the derby gets to catch a fish.

And, while the competition itself is for kids only, adults line up shoulder-to-shoulder when the derby is finished in order to take their turns reeling in some of the big trout brought in for the special event.

“We’re surrounded by lakes here,” McPhee says. “They’re beautiful, well-run parks and everybody who is even a little bit interested in fishing can find someplace to go and have fun on the water with a rod and a reel.”

For a great information resource on all of the area’s fishing spots, visit the Department of Fish and Game’s Web site at and check out their fishing guide.

Finding fish

• San Luis Reservoir: Trout up until late summer; blue gill, croppie and some catfish. Located off Union Road in Hollister.

• Chesbro Reservoir: Catfish, carp, blue gill, croppie. Located between Morgan Hill and San Jose.

• Campbell Percolation Ponds: Lots of trout. Located off of Camden Avenue in Los Gatos.

• Anderson Reservoir: Good bass fishing. Located off Cochrane Road.

• Coyote Reservoir: Trout; bass and catfish as the weather warms. Located on Coyote Reservoir Road, just off of Roop Road in Gilroy.

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