Places to Hunt and Fish Outside of Fire Zones in Central California
This year, California has been facing what may end up being its worst wildfire season in history. The fiercest fires—including the largest wildfire in California’s history—are currently located in Northern California, but throughout this summer, firefighters in Central California have had their hands full battling blazes in the Kern River Canyon and surrounding areas.
Over the past 2–3 years, nearly 50,000 acres of land in Kern County alone have seen wildfires—some of which are still burning here and there, but with the majority contained and plenty of areas untouched this year, new plants and wildlife have begun to flourish in the area. Located on the southern end of Sequoia National Forest, this area is popular for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Thousands of miles of public lands are available for hunters and anglers looking for that perfect spot, starting in Kern and extending north into Sequoia. Here are a few areas that offer great hunting and fishing near—but safely outside—those California fire zones.
Archers might want to explore deer hunting in Zone D9, which covers nearly 1,500 square miles, about half of which are public lands. Hunters in Bakersfield, Lamont and Arvin are particularly close to prime locations that opened for bowhunting on August 18. As of that date, falconers and archers can bag upland game birds including pheasant, quail, chukar, and some species of dove, grouse and ptarmigan in various areas north of Kern in Tulare and Inyo Counties. Check specific locations and regulations here.
For anglers, right in Kern County the southern Sierra Nevada is Lake Isabella. You’ll want to grab a boating permit before you launch into the lake in pursuit of largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow and brown trout, kokanee salmon, bluegill, crappie, and catfish.
Many areas along the Kern River are still untouched by recent fires and offer opportunities to catch golden trout. Golden trout are California natives, but have been transplanted in a few other states. They require high elevation and are considered fairly rare. For more opportunities at California golden trout, check out the Golden Trout Wilderness, which spans Tulare County and Inyo County in the Sierra Nevada northwest of Kern.
In the counties north of Kern County you’ll find even more activities, especially through Sequoia. The Kiavah Wilderness is worth checking out if you’re looking for desert scenery and wildlife. For more lush lands with freshwater hotspots, Shaver Lake in Fresno County is stocked with rainbow trout (including massive trophy-size trout) and kokanee salmon, as well as German brown trout, small mouth bass, bluegill and catfish. Bass Lake is a bit farther north, but worth the trip for trophy-size bass and kokanee, and it’s a popular spot for fishing with downriggers.