Celebrating gratitude has never been better than the time my family and I decided to try Thanksgiving on a houseboat.
I woke up Thursday morning to something delicious baking in the oven, the marvelous aroma wafting through the houseboat as I roused to the solitude of Shasta Lake on Thanksgiving.
I looked outside and soaked in the view – I’m on the water! I realized how quiet it was outside, the lake was all ours. It seemed that my family and I had the whole place to ourselves. The fish were pretty much the only thing making wrinkles in the water. In the afternoon that would change, as we decided to make splashes of our own by using the waterslide. But for the morning I just slipped into the hot tub and welcomed the morning with a delicious cup of coffee and allowed the bubbles to stir around me.
From the hot tub I viewed the beautiful fall colors, watched wildlife stir, and savored the quiet.
A few of the benefits of Thanksgiving on a houseboat didn’t come to me until I went on the trip myself. Consider a few of my notes:
1. Turkey and pumpkin pie was provided: it was a great help to have those staple items already bought, waiting for us when we arrived.
2. We still had the option to bake the turkey the traditional way: we did have the option, but we opted to grill it. A pie in the oven and a turkey on the grill was the way to go!
3. Avoiding the traditional dishes that I don’t like: For example, we conveniently roasted all of our marshmallows over a bonfire Wednesday night – that meant no marshmallows to make Aunt Kim’s baked sweet potatoes!
4. Don’t need to do the dishes: Let me explain – Of course there are a complete set of dishes on board to use if you do so choose, and the dishwasher is available to clean most of them… but a houseboat trip gave us the excuse to not use our fine china and to opt instead for ‘oh-so-fine’ paper plates.
5. No unexpected drop-ins: I don’t know about you, but during the holidays we get many a neighbor, friend and relative (the one you try to avoid) who walk in unannounced, which can be fun most of the time. However, it is amazing to have the break from the people you didn’t plan for.
6. We could still watch the big game on TV all afternoon – Dad would have survived without watching the Big Game on Thanksgiving, but he would have been grumpy! If we decided to endure Dad’s grumpy mood we could have hid the remote (ahh, just like home).
All in all, the oven is on standby for your pies, the grill is primed for your turkey, the water is patiently waiting, and your crew will be hungry after a day cruising on the water. The vote is in – enjoy your Thanksgiving, the houseboating way!
The 2 best times of year for fishing are in the early spring and the early fall, before the winter weather.
And with fall arriving this week, it’s time to grab your gear, cooler and binoculars and read over this fall fishing cheatsheet!
Why Early Fall?
In order to be the best fisherman you can be, it is best to understand why early fall is the best time for bass fishing.
To put it simply, bass fish school together in the early fall when the weather cools down. When the weather cools down, so does the water, which equals more oxygen in the lake. With more oxygen in the lake bass become more active!
Get those bass hooked!
This is the season when bass will strike at about anything you throw at them. However, some patterns work better than others.
You need to know these 3 things in order to catch premium bass:
1. Understanding the natural feed in the lake.
2. Awareness about marine plant life in the lake.
3. Knowledge of areas of the lake where shallow water is closer to deep water.
Colder temperature makes bass more active, and with more activity comes a higher energy burn, thus the need to seek more food. Familiarizing yourself with the natural forage and plant life in the lake assists in picking out correct bait and finding the bass. Bass is usually found chasing shad or other forage fish, in their normal habitat of deep water with close proximity to shallow water.
Apply what you know on Shasta Lake
The best place to start when going out to hook some bass is to locate the bait. Bass feed on the shad in Shasta Lake. The Jones Valley area offers the finest entrance to the Pit and Squaw Arms, which are considered the best areas for overall fishing.
Other common areas are located where the streams and rivers fill into the lake – McCloud Bridge, on the McCloud, and Riverview (Lakehead) on the Sacramento Arm. However, the Jones Valley area of Shasta Lake is known as the best bass habitat on the lake.
Head out from Jones Valley and look for bird feeding activity or where bait balls are pushed to the surface by feeding trout and bass.
Once you find your spot, its time to imitate the bait. We recommend using small blue and silver spoons like Hopkins “Shorty” spoons. To attract strikes, some people use rip bats through the schools.
This cheatsheet has provided you with all the information you need to catch “the big one” this fall – except patience!
Fishing is a great bonding experience to have with kids; the memories made last a lifetime. However, sometimes it is a difficult task to get kids to love something that requires so much patience.
1. Get their attention: Since kids nowadays are more tech savvy than many adults, going the internet route can really kickstart a child’s interest. fishingkids.com is a great resource to introduce your kids to the world of fishing in a manner that is informative but will also keep their attention. The website includes a glossary, characters, and many affordable books with exciting and informative information. You can also psych kids out by telling them your most exciting fishing experience. 2. Set them up: Kids love brand new gadgets! They are always way more excited about brand new gear rather than dad’s old stuff. There are many different types of kids gear available including Fishing Kids Box Sets, compasses, tackle boxes and a large selection of kids fishing poles and rods at the Jones Valley Resort store or your local sporting goods store. And don’t forget about fishing licenses if they are over 14 years old – Jones Valley Resort has those too!
3. Make it special: Fishing as a kid creates memories for years to come … if you make it a special time. Maybe the night before the fishing adventure, get kids excited by going to the store to get special snacks for when you’re on the boat, you can even keep it themed with goldfish, swedish fish, or gummy worms! Once you get home you can make the trip feel special by preparing the fishing gear with the kids while watching “Finding Nemo” or your favorite fishing movie. Making fishing seem special will make fishing feel special to kids and keep them wanting more. 4. Positive reinforcement: If a fish bites on your first fishing outing with your child, they will be hooked (no pun intended)! But if the fish aren’t biting and patience is waning, try taking a few breaks for your kids to rejuvenate. Kids do get bored easily, so add to the fun by taking an afternoon swim break and enjoying the snacks you packed with the kids. And remember, keep the pressure off and the patience up. Kids will remember this time for the rest of their lives, and may even carry on the tradition someday with their own children!
The great Shasta Debate. When a lake isn’t a lake, what do we call it? When I’ve asked some of my colleagues and neighbors here in Redding, the response is almost always emphatically stated, “SHASTA LAKE!” When we see someone refer to the reservoir (more on that in a moment) as ‘Lake Shasta’ most of us don’t bother to correct the person, instead permitting them to continue in their ignorance.
The following is an email from a former houseboats.com employee that explains this further, “Several years ago when the boom town communities of Central Valley, Project City and Summit City consolidated to form the city of Shasta Lake, our local newspaper, the Record Searchlight, found it all too confusing. Their ingenious solution? Unilateral lake name dyslexia.
While I believed Shasta Lake was correct, I had never proven it to myself. This time, I could not let a sleeping houseboating lake lie. So off I went to Google which lead me to the holy grail of geographical place names: the United States Geographical Survey (USGS), or more specifically, the US Board on Geographic Names, established to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government.
So, what does the Board have to say? SHASTA LAKE! The interesting rationale? The body of water is a Reservoir. The word “lake” is just part of the name – it’s not a classification. In the same way the word Bally in the nearby mountain range named Shasta Bally is just part of the name. So if you were to include a class when referring to it we should say ‘Shasta Lake Reservoir’. The term reservoir is optional (and no one exercises the option). Just as City of is optional for Redding or (city of) Shasta Lake.
So next time someone asks you, is it Lake Shasta or Shasta Lake? Look them dead in the eye, smile and confidently say: SHASTA LAKE!”
By Ron Tackitt
Outword Magazine, July 14, 2011
Happily, that has changed.
Several of my friends and coworkers and I have been talking with the folks at Houseboats.com for almost two years trying to find a time that we could get away from the office long enough between Outword’s deadlines, to drive up to Shasta Lake and be on the water for longer than two days. Recently, that opportunity came about and we were able to spend four full days on the lake.
We arranged to have a mid-line houseboat, that could sleep 12, and had, pretty much, all the comforts of home. We had no desire to fill the boat to capacity but we did end up with a great group of eight and that seemed just-right for us.
Our boat had four sleeping rooms in the main cabin, and two “penthouses” up on the top deck that accommodated all of us, without having to make the couches out into beds. That turned out to be really nice because if someone got up early and started mulling around in the kitchen, they were not right on top of someone sleeping on the couch.
Before our trip we held a planning meeting and assigned each person with a main meal, and left lunch open for each person to fend for themselves. In hindsight, we should have taken those meals into our plan, as everyone, not wanting to run out of food, brought way more than necessary.
We had eight containers of sour cream, seven salsas, two hummus, ten bags of chips, nine containers of sliced lunch meat, six or seven loaves of bread and an entire cooler full of various bags of lettuce. Along with the stuff that was specifically earmarked for the main meals! When we all realized the gravity of how much food was on board, we quickly dubbed our weekend, “Fat Camp.”
We thought we were going to have to walk all our stuff from our cars to the dock, but upon arrival were very pleasantly surprised that the Houseboats crew was more than ready and able to help. Their “QuadSquad” mounted on ATVs with trailers pulled up to our cars, unloaded all of our stuff and drove it to the boat. Once we were cleared to board, the squad even loaded the goods onto our boat for us. They were wonderful. In fact the quality of service was pretty amazing. Think of a relaxed Ritz Carlton…
After a short tour of the boat and a tutorial of how to drive it, one of the dock hands pulled our houseboat out of the marina and headed us out for open water. Once there, another dock hand picked him up, and we were free to navigate.
We could not have picked a better weekend to be on the lake as far as weather was concerned. Ours was perfect. It had been over 100 just days before we got there, but then dipped down to the mid 80s to low 90s. (The day after we left, it rained all day.)
We had great cruising/floating weather. The water had been warmed up and there was usually a slight breeze that helped cool the boat and keep us from having to use up precious gasoline to run the air.
Each night we pulled the boat up to land and tied up to a couple of trees. There are wonderful nooks and coves all up and down the lake, just picking the best one was our only challenge.
Our first evening we were greeted by a small flock of Canadian geese that swam around the back of the boat. Watching them, against the backdrop of calm water, catching the last of the evening’s light and hill after hill covered with trees, made for a pretty magical first impression.
The next day a friend joined us, and brought a ski boat with him. That increased the fun factor! When not being used to fling folks around on an inner-tube, or fetch ice, it was quite easily pulled behind the houseboat.
One evening we were parked in a spot where we did not have cell phone reception and it led to a great ski boat trip out onto the lake to find bars. (Can you hear me now?) I couldn’t have cared less, so I sat in the front and enjoyed the last sunlight of the day, dangling my hand over the side in the cool water and waves breaking off the bow. Heaven.
Bedtime came early each night. The darkness and the silence worked together to naturally tell our bodies that we’d had enough. Of course, eating and drinking all day might have also added to our sleepiness, but that’s another story.
Mornings brought about a familiar routine, brew some fresh coffee, mull around trying to wake up, then someone would make breakfast. After all, we had five dozen eggs to go through. Once satisfied, it was off to find another spot on the lake to hang out, stop the engine and float around in the water on a couple of styrofoam noodles.
We did this for four wonderful days. The houseboat was very comfortable, if not particularly well insulated for noise, and with just eight of us aboard, we all had plenty of room to ourselves. Some of us worshipped the sun on the top deck, others read books on their iPads or took naps, and there was almost always someone foraging in the kitchen.
All in all, this was a great trip, and there were only two things we would do differently; bring less food and get the bigger houseboat, AKA the Titan.
When we did have to return to the real world, we brought the houseboat back to the marina and once again, a dock hand came and moored the boat back in its place. The same great service that we experienced upon our arrival, we experienced again upon our return. The checkout process was quick and efficient, and it seemed almost too quick that we were in our cars and on our way home.
By Jim Dyer
Enjoy Magazine, June 2011
The experiences one can find on a houseboating trip can be as vast as the big blue bodies of water on which the vessels are designed to cruise.
One person could be napping on the sundeck, while another skims across the lake on a jet ski. Someone else could be fishing off the stern, while a buddy cooks a gourmet meal inside as music plays on a pristine stereo system.
For a long stretch of the 1980s, there was a chance you could cruise past a houseboat and hear Merle Haggard music drifting across the water and it was actually Merle himself. the country music legend lived on a houseboat on Shasta Lake for a long stretch.
“The coolest thing about houseboating is it’s so universally appealing,” says Chris Han, marketingcoordinator for Shasta Lake Resorts, which rents six models of houseboats (46 total) out of Jones Valley Resort on Shasta Lake. “Any lifestyle or age group can find something they really enjoy.”
In the North State, there’s an abundance of liquid terrain to explore.
With 365 miles of shoreline when full, Shasta Lake is California’s largest reservoir and features three major sections – the Sacramento, McCloud and Pit River arms. Brilliantly beautiful trinity Lake and sprawling Lake Oroville are also excellent options for houseboat trips in the region. “(trinity Lake) is more of a family lake,” explains Shannon Smith, manager of trinity Lake Resort and Marina. “It’s peaceful and quiet. It’s definitely scenic. you can see the trinity Alps from the lake and there’s a lot wildlife – eagles, deer, occasionally you’ll see bear.” At Shasta Lake’s Jones Valley Resort, all houseboats include hot tubs and waterslides. they also feature options like temperature-controlled wine storage, flat-screen tVs and satellite radio with surround-sound speaker systems. In other words, houseboat vacationers sail out with enough creature comforts to tempt them to never return home. And speaking of creatures, Jones Valley Resort’s Han says don’t leave them at home. “We encourage you to bring your dog,” she says. “Dogs love houseboating.” After a series of summers when lake levels were down significantly, Shasta Lake is full for a second season. trinity Lake is also brimming near the top. Han says the bountiful water should translate to increased business even over last summer’s boost. The view of a full lake simply tends to pull in more houseboaters, adds trinity Lake Resort’s Smith. “Even when the lake was down, there was nothing you couldn’t do out there,” says Smith. “When you’re on the lake, it’s basically the same experience even if it might not look as pretty. But right now it’s 10 feet from the top and the highest it’s been in four years.” As of late April, Lake Oroville was also close to capacity. One of the lake’s prime houseboat rental companies is Lake Oroville Marina, which features five houseboat options, including the 70-foot Silver Millennium Houseboat with four bedrooms and a six-person hot tub on the top deck. Houseboat rental rates vary greatly based on the type of boat, duration on the lake and season. A smaller houseboat can be rented for under $1,000 for a non-summer weekend trip. A weeklong summer trip in a deluxe houseboat can run as high as $15,000. No matter what houseboat you take out, safety is always a prime consideration. Houseboaters are advised to never swim while the boat is in operation. Law enforcement offers can issue DUIs for boat drivers impaired by alcohol. Rental companies conduct extensive safety orientations prior to the beginning of trips. “It’s a great bonding experience and a great tradition year after year,” says Han. “Now we have the kids coming back that used to do houseboats trips in ‘80s. they continue on because they love it so much. There’s always a different arm of the lake they can explore, or they can pick a different model of houseboat. every time they come back it’s a different trip.”
By Peter Ottesen [view original article]
Stockton Record Staff Writer
JONES VALLEY – There’s a magical quality at the sight of massive Shasta Lake this summer, where there is so much water, the impoundment offers recreationists more than 365 miles of shoreline. To put it in perspective, that’s much larger than all of San Francisco Bay.
Finding your way around Shasta Lake, set 20 minutes north of Redding and bisected by Interstate 5, is as intriguing as it is daunting. Once on the water, which way do you go? There are so many dead-end coves and bays and four major tributaries to explore – the Sacramento, Pit and McCloud river arms and Squaw Creek. Logistics can be tricky. Having a navigational chart is essential as directional signs are virtually nonexistent.
Perhaps, the unknown posed by the immense lake and a yearning for discovery are the allure of spending a number of days at Shasta, with no better way than aboard a houseboat. So, with absolutely no houseboating experience, five of us hearty seniors took the challenge and rented a 56-foot, two-story floating castle, that included everything from satellite television to dishwashers, two restrooms with showers and staterooms for everyone, even with power for sleep-apnea machines. We also towed two fishing boats.
“Don’t worry about a thing,” said Michael Han at Jones Valley Resort, who also rents houseboats at New Melones Lake. “We’ve got the ‘Quad Squad’ to unload your gear and food, and will give you a thorough briefing on how to operate the houseboat before you embark on your adventure.”
He must have sensed my trepidation. What I really wanted to know was how to steer and stop a flat-bottomed boat that weighs upwards of 60,000 pounds.
“Where are the brakes on this thing?” I asked.
Following an hour-long, onboard briefing, a resort employee guided the houseboat away from the dock and beyond the log jam. At that point the fellow hopped onto a pick-up boat and we were suddenly on our own, with me at the helm.
Instead of pandemonium, there was relative calm. The heavily forested hills surrounding the lake provided solace and a glimpse of 14,165-foot Mount Shasta seemed to tell us that we’d be just fine. After all, Shasta Lake is known as the “houseboat capital of the world,” with eight resorts renting approximately 350 houseboats, the largest 65 feet long and capable of sleeping 22 people.
Soon, we motored up the Pit River arm and tucked into secluded Clickapudi Cove, location of the last Pit River Indian battle in the 1920s, where wilderness still abounds. This would be home base.
We were met the next day by Gary Miralles of Shasta Tackle, inventor of the Cripplure, Koke-A-Nut and Hum-Dinger lures, Sling Blade dodger and devices for downriggers, who showed us where to find trout and how to catch them.
Miralles has spent more than 1,000 days on the lake and has the distinction of being skunked only twice.
“There is so much water, you could literally spend a lifetime searching the entire lake,” said Miralles, who recommended trolling the Pit River and Squaw Creek arms, quite close to the rocky shore at speeds of 2 to 2 1/2 miles per hour, and at a magic depth of 10 to 12 feet because the surface temperature was a chilly 54 degrees.
We hooked an amazing variety of trout – 13- to 18-inch Kamloops, Pit River-strain rainbow and browns – with an occasional spotted bass in the mix. The bite was so strong, we didn’t even try for much larger salmon that weigh 5 to 10 pounds.
“This is simply the best fishery in California,” Miralles said.
At night, we cleaned fish, barbecued dinner and enjoyed a relaxing libation. Overcast skies, a pesky south wind and a chill in the air only added to the ambiance. Our group retired early, only to awaken at about sunrise to start the next adventure. Fortunately, the notion of a member of our group climbing to a balcony and jumping down a water slide into the lake was not part of the agenda. That’s a sight none of us wished to contemplate.
Instead we witnessed dive-bombing bald eagles and osprey, foraging black-tailed deer and flocks of waterfowl, framed by snow-capped peaks that towered above the magnificent lake. With every turn, unexpected vistas just kept coming.
Contact outdoors columnist Peter Ottesen at (209) 546-8269 or email@example.com.
Location: The state’s largest impoundment, located 20 miles north of Redding, about a 3 1/2-hour drive from Stockton.
Facilities: Approximately 1,200 campsites, 11 marinas, 350 houseboat rentals and 35 resorts on 365 miles of shoreline.
Fishing: 22 species of gamefish.
Houseboat information: (877) 468-7326; houseboats.com.
Vacation planner: Request a free copy of the Shasta-Cascade Visitors Guide that covers eight counties in Northern California, (800) 326-6944; shastacascade.com.