Fishing in Southern California

There’s nothing more relaxing than a day in the sun, feet in the water with your line out.

Pressed against the ocean, California boasts many destinations for fishing a variety of fish species.

The coastal state can be the angler’s dream if you know where to look – and luckily, we’ve put together a guide that will help you optimize your fishing experience.

In sunny SoCal, you’re not just limited to the ocean – maybe you can find your fishing paradise in one of the 3000 lakes that you can find in the state of California.

Known as a sunny paradise with gorgeous scenery, you’re guaranteed a brilliant fishing experience in one of the many fishing spots that SoCal has to offer.

Fishing in Southern California
Chapter 1

Laguna Niguel Regional Park

You’re certain to have a scenic fishing experience at the Laguna Niguel Regional Park in Orange County.

The Laguna Niguel Lake (also known as the Sulphur Creek Reservoir) is a 44-acre lake created by the Sulphur Creek Dam in 1966.

Laguna Niguel Regional Park


Located in Orange County in Laguna Niguel, this park is one of the top-rated in the area, boasting close to a million visitors per year.

It’s well worth paying the $3 entry to the park, as once you’re in, you can partake in any of the following activities:

  • Bike riding
  • Park
  • Fishing (!!!)
  • Amphitheatre
  • BBQ/ Fire rings/ picnic
  • Pickleball
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Boat rental

The array of amenities available means you can bring your family along if you fancy a trip to the Laguna Niguel Regional Park, and you can even take a break from your angling adventure and have a tasty barbecue.

If you’re not a fan of bank fishing, rent a boat for just $10 and get yourself on the Laguna Niguel Lake. Unfortunately, private boats aren’t permitted on the lake, so you’ll have to make do with a rented boat.

Fish You Can Catch

  • Catfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Trout

The lake is super popular for catching rainbow trout during the season (November-April), with many people coming to the lake especially for the rainbow trout.

The limit for trout is 5 fish per stringer, and please be aware that no trout must be released unless caught on barbless artificials or flies only.

The current record for the biggest trout caught is 15.5 pounds, by Dan Ingouf. If you think you can beat his record, get yourself to Laguna Niguel and try your luck!

Need to Know

Please also bear in mind that the park rules say you can’t wade into the water at all, so think twice before delving into the depths of the lake.

Before arranging your visit, make sure you check the rules on the official park website. Although there’s no disruption currently, it’s also worth checking that the park will be open on your visit.

Entry is $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends, and please bear in mind that private boats aren’t permitted on the lake.

Chapter 2

Lake Gregory

Although an artificial lake, Lake Gregory boasts stunning natural scenery and ample opportunity to catch fish.

Lake Gregory


You’ll find the 84-acre lake hidden away in the San Bernardino Mountains near Crestline in Southern California.

There are plenty of amenities and things to do nearby if you need a break from fishing:

  • Camping
  • Swimming
  • Watersports
  • Basketball
  • Sand Volleyball
  • Boating
  • Disc golf
  • Trails
  • Cabins (short walk/ drive away)
  • Exercise stations
  • Dog park
  • Lodge (wedding facilities, banquets, conferences, etc)

Don’t stress if you’re unprepared for your fishing trip – there are local shops that sell bait and snacks.

When it’s time to eat, you can grill your fish on one of the many provided grills – or have a nice barbecue or picnic.

As well as shore fishing, you can partake in float tube fishing and even rent a rowboat and enjoy a day floating on the lake with your rod.

Fish You Can Catch:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Largemouth bass
  • Channel catfish
  • Brown bullhead
  • Bluegill
  • Black crappie
  • Koi
  • Goldfish
  • Carp

Although fishing is open to the public all year round, expert anglers say you’re more likely to catch rainbow trout in the springtime.

The CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) plants rainbow trout twice a month from spring through to fall, ensuring the numbers stay stable.

Every month, an orange tagged fish is released into the lake. Try your luck at catching the orange tagged fish and win up to $1,500!!!

Need to Know

There are tickets available at any of the Fishing Pay Stations, that may cost you around $8 per day of fishing.

For a discounted price, you can choose 10 tickets for $70, which will give you 10 days in the park.

Please note that any private vessels and powerboats aren’t allowed on the lake, but rowboats and paddleboats are fine and even available for rental.

Chapter 3

Diamond Valley Lake

The Diamond Lake is a paradise for anglers from all around Southern California, offering countless isolated fishing spots. You can find a spot and go all day without seeing another human being. Paradise…

Diamond Valley Lake


Diamond Valley Lake (AKA The Diamond) can be found in Hemet, San Jacinto Valley (around 85 miles from San Diego). It’s not only one of the largest reservoirs in the whole of Southern California, but it’s also one of the newest.

The huge lake is 4500-acres, and has depths of up to 260ft, making it the perfect place for anglers all over California.

Aside from fishing and admiring the gorgeous scenery, there are other things to do in the area:

  • Hiking
  • Bike riding
  • Bird-watching
  • Kayaking
  • Trails

Fish You Can Catch

  • Black bass
  • Striped bass
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Rainbow trout
  • Channel catfish
  • Panfish

It’s local knowledge that you can catch “monster-sized” fish at this lake. If you’re lucky, you might catch a 10-pound bass – springtime being the prime time to do so.

Fish are planted around twice a month, depending on what the temperature of the lake is.

Interesting Facts

During the excavation of the lake, fossils were found from a variety of extinct animals, including the mammoth, mastodons, and the long-horned bison. Bones from extinct species of camel, sloth, and wolf were also found in the soils, that have hugely added to local paleontologists’ understanding of the historic local wildlife.

A total of around 5000 people were employed by the construction project of the lake, hugely boosting the economy of the local area.

It cost just short of $2 billion to construct.

Need to Know

Please note that it will cost you $9 per vehicle that enters the park, so make sure you have the cash!

For any boaters wanting a boat band upon leaving DVL, you’ll be charged $3. For more info, go to the official park website.

Any boat with traditional carburetor two-stroke engines is not permitted on the lake at all, as it’s used as a water source.

You’re also not allowed to swim in this lake, as it may introduce harmful pathogens to the water and contaminate the lake. You don’t want to ruin millions of people’s drinking water!

Chapter 4

Santa Monica Pier

For a more lively fishing experience, why not travel to one of California’s most famous piers – Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Pier


At the western end of Route 66, you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier. If you love the hustle and bustle of urban life, you’ll love the Santa Monica Pier.

You’ll fit right in with the tourists who visit for the amusement park, shops, and local bars and restaurants – all while having a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean.

If you aren’t equipped for a day of fishing, then pop to the Bait and Tackle shop at the end of the pier, where you can rent a rod, and purchase any other fishing equipment you may need.

After a long day fishing in the sun, why not go to one of the many cafes, bars, and restaurants that the pier has to offer? Or take a dip in the turquoise waters to cool down.

Fish You Can Catch

  • Perch
  • Mackerel
  • White sea bass
  • Black sea bass
  • Leopard shark
  • Tiger Shark
  • Stingrays

Need to Know

Please note that if you catch black sea bass, you must throw it back or donate it to the local aquarium. These fish are endangered.

You aren’t required to have a fishing license to fish off the pier, but if you want to go boat fishing or shore-fishing, then you’ll need to have a valid license with you.

If you’re new to fishing, you’ll be better off starting on the lower level of the pier. It can be a lot more difficult fishing from the upper level of the Santa Monica Pier.

Be sure to keep an eye out for any warning signs on the pier – there could be a contamination warning, which means you won’t be able to eat any of the fish you catch.


Southern California is full of picturesque lakes and reservoirs that are the angler’s dream, and the coast has plenty of fishing opportunities too.

Before casting out your line, make sure you have a valid fishing license for California – unless you’re fishing off a pier – then you don’t need a license.

Do you agree with our top fishing spots in Southern California? Do you know of any secret spots you’re willing to share with us?

Drop a comment below, and don’t forget to share this guide with your fellow fishing enthusiasts!

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