Outdoor Talk with Peder Fish
By Peder Fish
Let's face it, there is not a whole lot to do in Novato. However, if you enjoy hiking and fishing, then there are endless options.
Locally, Indian Valley Open Space Preserve is one of the great places to go. I went to Indian Valley to explore some of the trails hidden within the city limits. These trails were not beginner trails but not advanced either. Novato High senior Carson Ceresa has explored this area and is an avid outdoorsman.
“Best time of year would probably be spring, because everything is still green and it's right after all the rains of winter,” Ceresa said, regarding the best times to hike.
Before you do any of these, remember to bring water, wear good shoes. Keens and Ariats are great for hikes, and bring a little bit of food for energy.
“Best time of day would be early morning or late afternoon,” said Ceresa. “Also, be mindful and aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, coyotes, and especially poison oak.”
You are also guaranteed to see a vast amount of wildlife at Indian Valley, including western-fence lizards, blacktail deer, red-tailed hawks, and turkey vultures.
I did the Pacheco Pond trail, Witzel trail, and Buzzard Burn trail. Pacheco Pond trail is the best overall trail for people who just want to take a walk in the woods. However, if you're up for more of a challenge, then the Buzzard Burn trail loop, which is about 2 ½ miles and mostly uphill, will have you burning.
Safety is also a major aspect of local hiking. AP US History teacher Tim Mahoney is an expert hiker and is out on the trails almost every week. He provided some tips from his own experiences.
“The absolute most important thing you must do on a hike is tell someone where you are going, and if you can't tell someone where you are going, you have to leave a note in your car, telling someone what your itinerary is. Beyond that, you just gotta be prepared. In Marin County, the weather can change like that, it can go from hot and sunny, to rainy and cold really really quickly, so I would always bring a light little layer; does not mean you have to bring a fat jacket, but like a really really thin waterproof layer,” said Mahoney.
The local fishing also provides a great outdoor experience. When most people think fishing, they generally think of going out in the bay on a big charter and troll for lingcod and salmon. Unfortunately, most of us do not have access to a large boat or money to charter a boat. There are plenty of other opportunities in Marin that not very many people know about, including excellent hidden freshwater and saltwater fishing in the area.
Closest place to access great bass fishing would have to be Stafford Lake. Stafford Lake is a healthy reservoir on the outskirts of Novato teeming with a largemouth bass and black crappie. The peak season for Stafford would be April-May when the bass start to spawn. Early morning or the evening is the best time of day to catch the big fish.
The best lures to use are Yamamoto Senkos with a shaky head jig, and or a topwater frog.
If you appreciate eating good fish, a place you must go is Bon Tempe and Alpine Lakes in Fairfax. These two lakes are home to fierce smallmouth bass and lunker largemouth.
These lakes are mainly known for their rainbow trout which are averaging 5-7 pounds. For rainbow trout the best bait to use is chartreuse colored powerbait with a size-10 hook. Fly fishing is fairly productive; I would suggest 5 or 6 weight fly line. As far as flies, I have had luck with parachute adams, copper john, elk hair caddis, or a woolly bugger. The best times are either between 5 and 7 a.m. and 5 and 7 p.m. The morning is more productive for bait and the evening is great for fly fishing because the bugs start to hatch and the fish get very ravenous. Remember that the limit is five trout per person. Personally, I do not recommend eating bass, but if you so choose to, the size limit is 2 bass per person with a size limit over 18 inches.
If you prefer fishing for saltwater species, another close productive spot is Black Point boat launch on the Petaluma River, located under highway 37. This spot is home to a fair amount of saltwater species including striped bass, leopard sharks, bat rays, and the elusive white sturgeon. For this river, I almost exclusively use live bait, I have had luck with squid, shrimp, and anchovies. My setup for this river is a 7-foot heavy action spinning rod with 20lb line. I also use a 30 lb leader on the end with a size 6-4 octopus hook. Make sure you have a minimum three-ounce weight attached using a slip slider. The current is very strong and will take your line away if you do not have enough weight.
A good time to fish is when the tide is coming in and the peak fishing is at high tide. The time of the tides fluctuates throughout the year so it's good to look at the tide reports before you go.