Short Take: 1,000 miles of navigable, fishable, man-made waterways; tule-lined canals, rock riprap, laydowns, tidal fluctuations, five major rivers. Of all the places in America where an angler can catch largemouth bass, perhaps none is as unusual as California’s San Joaquin River Delta. In the 50-odd miles between Stockton and San Francisco, five major, nutrient-rich rivers flow together to form a huge, shallow delta, which in turn has been diked and dammed and channeled into more than 1,000 miles of canals and sloughs that eventually empty into San Francisco Bay. Construction of the canals and levees began as long ago as 1869 and continued for more than 60 years, during which time some 700,000 acres of land were reclaimed. Today, this land continues to be some of the richest farmland in the state. The canals have become a major source of boating recreation, for it is possible to travel from Stockton to San Francisco by boat, and many do just that, especially when the pro football 49ers have a home game. Over time, many canals have become lined with tules and other types of vegetation. Wave erosion has broken other dikes to create small, shallow lakes, and in still other places the dikes have formed brush-covered islands. Water depths are seldom more than 20 feet, but daily tidal fluctuation can be four to five feet. In short, the San Joaquin River Delta (the other rivers are the Sacramento, Cosumnes, Calaveras, and Mokelumne) ranks as one of the finest bass fisheries in the United States because of the abundant cover and the quality of the water. The region has produced individual bass weighing more than 15 pounds; five-bass daily limits of over 34 pounds; and three-day catches (15 bass) weighing more than 78 pounds. “The Delta has tremendous fishing,” says California angler Mark Tyler, who, in the spring of 1999 caught bass weighing 8 and 14 pounds on consecutive casts. “The area has some unusual features, such as the huge tidal fluctuations, but overall, I think it’s comparable to any bass lake anywhere for the quality of fish it produces.” Primary Species: Largemouth bass.
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