Lake Chabot is located on the edge of the city of San Leandro. The lake is 315 acres, with two major arms (Honker Bay and Bass Cove). Built in 1874, Lake Chabot is one of the oldest lakes in the state. The lake was not opened to recreational use until the 1960's. It is managed under the East Bay Regional Parks system.
You can park in the parking lot for $5 (as of 2007) or you can park on Fairmont / Lake Chabot Rd. and walk in. Either way don't forget to stop by the marina and buy your EBPARKS fishing pass. The lake is policed, and they do check to see if you have your pass. The parking lot closes a bit after sunset, but if you park on the road you can fish until 10pm. Park at your own risk though, my truck was broken in to here in 2000.
There are paved roads from the marina to the dam, and from the marina to the back of Honker Bay. If you don't mind the walk, you can fish several miles of shore line along these trails. Dirt trails continue around the lake although the shoreline from mid way back in Honker to the back of Bass Cove on the east side of the lake is not accessible. The tackle store at the lake has only a minimal amount of gear so bring what you need for the day.
Float tubing, kayaking, canoeing, and kick boating are all allowed at Chabot. The trick is getting your boat to the water. While parks employees are allowed to trailer down to the ramp, us regular fishermen are forced to drag our boats down from the parking lot 200 yards up hill. Using a set of wheels on your craft of choice is recommended. Waders are required. With so much nuisance associated with bringing your own "boat", you don't see a lot of personal watercraft on Lake Chabot.
Rental boats at Chabot are on the expensive side. A crummy aluminum rental boat with an electric trolling motor will run you $50/day. There are specials on the boat rentals if you can fish week days so check the norcalfishing.com site for deals. At 315 acres it takes a while to trolling motor your way around the lake so ask for a spare battery if you plan to fish all day.
The fishing at Lake Chabot is ... interesting. Chabot has gone through at least one major boom cycle and may be entering a second cycle now. In the 1980's many big bass were caught at Chabot following the initial stocking of Florida strain largemouth. There was a strong panfish population, and by in large the lake had a reputation for good fishing. In the late 90's and early 2000's the big bass were still there but Chabot was by no means a good lake any more. Chabot was and is a lake where the large bass seem to appear and disappear depending on the season. There are times at Chabot when you would swear that no bass live in the lake. Other times you will see numbers of quality bass, and wonder where on earth they came from.
In the early 2000's a Christmas tree program was put in place at the lake and the result has been an expanding baitfish, panfish, and bass population. Silversides are the primary bait fish at Chabot, and they are plentiful now. If there are shad in the lake, I have never seen them. Bluegill are making a comeback and you will see them hanging under the marina docks. Bass in the 3-5lb range which used to be a rare size at Chabot are now common. Where a normal trip to Chabot for bass used to be catching zero or one bass, angler's catch three to seven bass now per trip.
The big bass are still in Chabot, but not much easier to catch. Swimbaits, jigs, and senkos are the most productive methods if you want to have a go at them. Your best bet though is to go all the time and hope that you hit a day where the ghosts of Chabot decide to appear and feed.
Water at Chabot can be divided along the lines of the two arms. Honker bay is the muddy arm, shallow in the back and packed in with tulles. It looks like a great place to fish but when you get up in there you realize that most of the water is shallow and featureless just off the tulle line. Some years the pond weed grows in thick in Honker, other years it seems to die off before it gets started, or struggle to the surface in mangy patches.
On the main lake the water mixes and sometimes you will even see a distinct color change around the marina section of the lake. Bass cove and the main lake is clearer and steeper, with more lay down trees and rock banks. "Clear" water at Chabot means 5-8 feet of visibility. Algae blooms are common and occur almost year round. In heavy rains the entire lake can turn to mud. The only way to know for sure what the conditions will be like day-to-day at Chabot is to go and see for yourself.
The real draw at Chabot for 90% of the anglers is the trout. In the spring it is not uncommon to see 100 or more trout fishermen lining the banks and plying the water from rental boats. Power bait and night crawlers are the preferred method. Lure fishing is not popular from shore at Chabot. Trolling any of your standard trout trolling fare is popular from the rental boats and it seems like many of the 10lb+ trout are caught trolling on the main lake. Chabot is stocked October through May/June and they get everything from small DFG planters to 20lb triploid monsters. The trout record is 22.7lbs.
Channel catfish are available at Chabot, and there are some big ones. I've seen fish swimming in the lake well over 25lbs. There are also hordes of carp which seem to be the 5-20lb variety. You don't see the big bomber carp in Chabot. There are reported to be crappie in the lake but they are rare. I've never seen one alive or dead. Believe it or not, there are smallmouth bass in Chabot, and every few years you hear about one or two. There used to be more of them but they have decreased in number over the years.
At the end of the day you can grab a hamburger from the grill at the marina, and fillet your trout at the fish cleaning station just below the parking lot. The sun goes behind the hills early in the evening at Chabot, and the breeze from the bay can be cold even in July so hopefully you packed a jacket. Chabot is an interesting lake, old and mysterious. She rewards the persistent angler, but she doesn't give up her secrets easily.