Lake Del Valle sits in a narrow canyon in the East Bay, taking its water supply from Arroyo Valle Creek and from the CA Delta via the South Bay Aqueduct. Surface acreage is approximately 5,000. The south end of the lake where the launch ramp and marina are located is flat, shallow, and almost always dingy. The north end of the lake is steep, deep, and almost always clear – up to 20’ visibility. Along the narrow main body are a smattering of coves and small bays.
Camping is on the southwest shore and there are hundreds of sites. The shore access by the campground isn’t that great, but there’s ample shore access in the day use area of the lake which leads to a wide path taking you north down the lake for several miles.
Del Valle is home to (at the very least) rainbow trout, Florida strain largemouth, smallmouth, channel catfish, striped bass, bluegill, crappie, suckers, and squawfish. The trout are planted fall through spring and they put in both the small DFG trout and the large tail-less, flat-faced private hatchery trout. Trout is best during the months when they stock but the fish do hold-over in the lake.
Trolling for trout with grubs is popular at Del Valle for some reason and it seems to work well. You’ll see quite a few boats out in spring doing this. Shore fishing with powerbait is most popular along the narrows, which is the stretch between the launch ramp and Heron Bay. This bottleneck area of the lake creates good fishing as fish move out toward the main lake from the ramp.
Like most CA lakes, the striped bass population at Del Valle is cyclical. In the 90’s you heard about good numbers of big stripers 15-30+ pounds. Zara spooks and fast moving surface baits were popular. In the 2000’s you hear about less big stripers although some are still caught. The better fish seem to be in the 15-22lb range though no doubt there are a few giants in there snapping up the planted trout.
There does seem to be an age class of 4-7lb fish that are really coming on strong in the lake right now (2009). In the fall these fish show up and eat kastmasters or similar spoons, often when people are trolling for trout. If you meter around the lake and keep your eye out for shad/birds you might locate these guys though they seem to move around a lot.
The largemouth fishing at Del Valle is a quality vs. quantity affair. Most years someone gets a fish over 14 pounds, and the lake record is over 18lbs – caught split shotting a 4 inch worm. When these fish show, they are fat, huge, and healthy. Del Valle can be an OK jig lake in fall and winter and a decent enough swimbait lake when the water clarity is good.
The trick with the bass at Del Valle is getting a bait in front of them. There’s enough deep wood coming out of sharp rock in the lake to make getting a decent cast on the fish tricky. And in the summer, the lake mats up with dense weeds that provide good hiding for bass but can be hard to fish (think punching rigs). Regardless, the fish are there and they’re solid. In spring, try the south end and flip senkos to the brush. The fish get more accessible then.
Smallmouth are common in the lake, but not big. Your average Del Valle smallmouth is 1 to 2.5 pounds. A lot of fish get caught on drop shot in deeper water, 20-40’. Try the clearer north end of the lake for smallies. On your way there, drive slowly, the speed limit on the lake is 10mph and they do enforce it by boat and by helicopter (yes helicopter). The sheriff will sit around the bend before Heron bay and write tickets all afternoon as boats come around the corner on pad.
In the winter, Del Valle can be very quiet – especially on weekdays. In the summer the lake can be slam packed with people. With the 10mph speed limit there’s no wake boarding, jet skiing, etc, but that doesn’t stop people from dragging their 24’ bayliners to the lake to drive laps around the coves. Be prepared to fish mudlines in the afternoon if you go any time after memorial day on the weekend. Watch for swimmers in the middle of the lake too (no joke, people like to do this here for some reason).
Rental boats and a small selection of tackle are available at the marina. There’s a good fish cleaning station to the right of the ramp and they have a nice photo board as well to check out big catches. Del Valle draws down in the fall, usually in late September or October. They pull the plug, drain off 10-15’ and then let it sit. When the rain comes in January, the lake can fill back up in a week. They never let the lake get too low, perhaps a nod to the concession and the marina which sits in fairly shallow water.