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With picturesque landscapes hugging California’s rivers and lakes, and the Pacific Ocean just waiting to be explored, it’s easy to see why anglers love fishing in Southern California. Temperate weather wafts above the deep blue waters, making for an ideal fishing ground all throughout the region. From rugged coastlines to mountainous peaks, Southern California has no shortage of excellent locations for fishing enthusiasts.
The Best Fishing Spots in Southern California
Don’t let the size of this scenic 110-acre reservoir fool you. Located about an hour east of San Diego, Lake Cuyamaca’s fishing junctures are unmatched by local alternatives.
Fishing opportunities at the lake are offered year-round. Vast populations of trout, catfish, bluegill, and sturgeon circle the waters. Lake Cuyamaca is also a frontrunner in California’s camping destinations—tents and lake-view condos are available all across the north shore. There’s a larger campground in Cuyamaca State Park, making it perfect for an RV road trip.
A charming restaurant overlooks the lake on the western shore, so indulge in delicious, locally-sourced meals that are guaranteed to ease your weariness after a long day.
Located in the pine-covered heart of the San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Gregory makes fishing in Southern California an absolute delight. A two-hour drive from Los Angeles will bring you to this bucolic 120-acre area—which is home to both brown and rainbow trout.
Every month, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife provides the lake with a large stocking of trout. Expert anglers keep a close eye on the stocking schedule, and are typically quick to catch the rainbow trout. However, some fish live on to become the 10-pound titans Lake Gregory is renowned for.
Besides trout, the lake is home to a plethora of native-born species. Populations of catfish, bullhead, bluegill, and smallmouth bass are among the denizens of the lake. Every month, an orange-tagged fish is released into the lake and prized at $1,500 for those who catch it.
Though fishing is accessible year-round, peak times at Lake Gregory occur in the spring—immediately after the lake is stocked. If you’re one to savor moments of solitude while fishing, aim to avoid busy summer weekends.
Besides being one of the best spots for trout fishing in Southern California, Lake Gregory offers plenty of other activities. Hiking trails, picnic areas, and a swimming beach await you in this rural wonderland.
Diamond Valley Lake
Located between two mountain ranges near Hemet, this artificial reservoir is renowned for its “monster fishes.” Fishermen from all over the world visit Diamond Valley Lake to experience SoCal fishing at its finest—all while squaring off against these 15-pound giants.
Black bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and rainbow trout are all among the species inhabiting these waters. All that and more make Diamond Valley Lake one of the best places to fish in Southern California. If you’re a shore-fishing enthusiast, then head west of the marina, where signs mark a designated 1.5-mile section.
Castaic Lake is located north of Santa Clarita and stocked with world-renowned largemouth bass from fall to spring. Southern California bass fishing has hit most of its milestones at this state water reservoir—a 22-pound bass and a 48-pound channel catfish were among the biggest catches.
If trophy fish are what you’re after, the best time to visit the reservoir is in March. Both trout and largemouth bass reside mostly in the lagoon, which permits nightly shore fishing.
Fly Fishing in Southern California
If you’re a fan of urban fishing, look no further than Piru Creek—a year-round hotspot for “trophy” trout. This Southern California fly-fishing champion provides the Santa Clara River with almost half of its flow. The creek—notorious for its catch and release trout fishing—has garnered outstanding public interest over the years. Countless anglers, picnickers, and kayakers visit the creek to bask in its scenic wilderness.
Besides trout, Piru Creek is home to largemouth bass, which are best attracted with poppers. When fishing, stay between Pyramid Dam and Lake Piru in pursuit of the lushest banks and frequent catches. Keep an eye out for bullfrogs, the rowdy residents of this area.
Surf Fishing in Southern California
El Capitan State Beach
Located 20 minutes north of Santa Barbara, this sandy locale is a go-to surf fishing hotspot. Spunky surfperch dominate the waters of El Capitan State Beach, ranging from one to two pounds on average.
The winding beach leads you north where sand transforms into rocks. While fishing at the edges of the cliffs can prove worthwhile, it’s important to be cautious because the surface can get slippery.
Southern California Sportfishing
Experience the finest of Southern California sportfishing with Davey’s Locker—an action-packed excursion on the Orange County coastline. Marvel at the panoramic views of the Pacific while learning about marine life from the friendly and knowledgeable staff.
There are half-day and multi-day fishing experiences available, so you can schedule the excursion that works best for you. While aboard, visitors can catch a glimpse of fascinating blue whales, bottlenose dolphins, giant yellowtails, and many other sea creatures.
Pier Fishing in Southern California
Redondo Beach Pier
Pier fishing in Southern California truly comes into its own at Redondo Beach Pier—the horseshoe-shaped angler haven.
The deep-water of Redondo Submarine Canyon hugs the pier rather close, making the area uniquely convenient for fishing. While the pier has long been deemed the mackerel hotspot, expert anglers know the deep water is home to several different species. Smaller baitfish attract barracuda at night and yellowtail in early fall. Cusk-eels, sablefish, and sanddab are also among the canyons’ inhabitants.
The area is also much more than a fishing spot—an energetic ambiance surrounds a complex of restaurants, shops, and arcades.
Santa Monica Pier
When it comes to pier fishing in Southern California, expert anglers understand the significance of Santa Monica. Fishing has been among the pier’s most celebrated activities since it was established in 1909.
The boardwalk leads you to a rail at the sea-end that’s packed with fishermen pulling expert tricks. If you wish to partake, rent out tackles and bait in the little shop nearby.
Extending about 1,000 feet beyond the tide, Santa Monica Pier supplies various fish species with an ideal deep-water habitat. You can find clams, black cod, walleye, mackerel, sea bass, corbina, rays, and many other frequent visitors in these waters.
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