Updated for 2022
Have you ever been fishing? When you’re fishing with kids, remember it’s all about the experience. Have fun. Enjoy the time together.
Here in Southern California, you have plenty of options including fishing out on a boat with others, trying out fishing in a smaller lake setting, spending a few hours at a popular pier, and more.
There are so many places to go fishing around Los Angeles and all of Southern California. Some of these spots are open to the public with no paid reservations required, while others require that you pay a fee. At some places, you’ll take your chances at reeling in any fish at all, while others have stocked lakes so you’ll be very likely to catch fish!
Do You Need a License to Fish in California?
According to TakeMeFishing.org, you do need a license to fish in California — except if you’re fishing off a pier in ocean waters. There are annual licenses or short-term ones, and you can decide which you’d prefer. The idea behind the licenses is to help fund conservation efforts in the state, managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Beyond licenses, there are other rules about fishing: some are written, and some are unwritten. Catch and release is one of the techniques you and your family will need to learn as you start to fish. In some cases, the fish you catch may be too small or out of season, in which case you ought to release them in a humane way. There are lots of videos showing how to correctly catch and release on YouTube.
What’s the Best Fishing Gear for Kids?
There are a few things you’ll need when you take your kids fishing. Some supplies are basic, and some are a little more involved. To keep it simple, you’ll need to have just a few things:
- A rod and reel — if your kids are little, get small ones they can hold easily.
- A bobber — they’re handy because they provide a visual clue when the fish is biting.
- Bait — whether it’s live or not depends on the type of fish you’re trying to catch.
- Water, snacks, and sun protection — you may be waiting a while for the fish to take the bait.
- A lot of patience and a sense of humor — you’re there to have fun!
Best Places to Go Fishing in Los Angeles
1. Santa Monica Pier
380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Did you know fishing is allowed at the Santa Monica Pier? Well, it is. It’s a great place to try out fishing and see if your kids enjoy it. It has proven to be a popular spot to catch mackerel, bass, and perch.
No license is needed. And before you fish, take advantage of the knowledge and supplies you’ll find at the Santa Monica Pier Bait and Tackle Shop. They’ll let you know what is in season, give advice about the best bait to use, and even rent fishing rods.
2. Lake Balboa
6300 Balboa Blvd., Lake Balboa, CA 91406
You don’t have to go far from home to fish if you live in Southern California. Lake Balboa, in Van Nuys, is a picturesque setting to have a fun family fishing day, or at least a couple of hours. A license is required for everyone age 16 and older. Be sure to stay in the areas that are open for fishing as some areas — along the walkways, for example— are restricted.
Go Fishing in the South Bay/Long Beach
3. Redondo Beach Pier
100-500 Fisherman’s Wharf, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Fishing on the Redondo Beach Pier is relatively easy for families. No permits are required, equipment can be rented on-site if you don’t own your own, and there are lots of other fun activities to do in case fishing isn’t a hit with your family. And if you find out your family really does enjoy fishing, you can plan a fishing excursion through Redondo Beach Sportfishing & Whale Watch.
4. El Dorado East Regional Park
7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach, CA 90815
Families will find two stocked fishing lakes within the large El Dorado East Regional Park. In the lakes, you may catch trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, and more. Remember, a fishing license is required for all those fishing who are 16 and older. Keep in mind that the park also requires a vehicle entrance fee.
Go Fishing Near San Diego
5. Lake Jennings
9535 Harritt Rd., Lakeside, CA 92040
At Lake Jennings, you may hear someone offering you encouragement in the form of “Don’t Let the Big One Get Away.” Some say Lake Jennings offers “some of the best freshwater fishing” in San Diego County. During the summer the lake is stocked with catfish, and between November and April, the lake is stocked with trout. You may also reel in large-mouth bass, bluegill, blue catfish, and more.
Go Fishing East of Los Angeles
6. Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park
120 Via Verde Park Rd., San Dimas, CA 91773
Fishing is just one of the many things families can do at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas. The facilities also offer horseback riding, hiking, bicycling, camping, and much more. When it comes to fishing, you’ll find catfish, carp, bass, and trout here. Anyone 16 and older who fishes will need a license, and there is a vehicle entrance fee. The park opens at 5:00 am and closes at 8:00 pm.
7. Legg Lake at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area
750 S. Santa Anita Ave., South El Monte, CA 91733
Legg Lake in Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is a good place to try out fishing — especially if you’re not sure if your family will enjoy it — because, in addition to fishing, the recreation area has a number of other fun things to do. Available activities include hiking trails, children’s play areas, baseball fields, and much more. The lake is stocked with various kinds of fish including rainbow trout, bass, and more.
8. Prado Regional Park
16700 S. Euclid Ave., Chino, CA 91708
Prado Regional Park is home to a 60-acre lake, as well as a campground, pedal boat rental facility, children’s playground, disc golf course, and more. Both experienced and novice anglers frequent Prado. The lake is stocked with trout from November to April and catfish from May to September. A state fishing license is required. Fishing workshops and derbies are also offered throughout the year. Check the website for additional details.
Go Fishing North of Los Angeles
9. Castaic Lake State Recreation Area
32132 Castaic Lake Dr., Castaic, CA 91384
There are two main areas there — the lower lake and the upper lake. Castaic Lake also has a 24-hour Fishing Pier available. On-site you’ll also find a campground and picnic areas, making this a popular spot for families to spend some time, as well as a location where you can rent any equipment you may need. The lake is stocked with trout, catfish, and bass. Be sure to check the website for all applicable fishing rules.
10. Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle
230 #B Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
If you feel like driving up to Santa Barbara for the day, cast your line at Stearns Wharf. Fishing is free there, and you’ll find Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle will have everything you may need. You can rent rods there if you don’t have your own.
Go Fishing in Orange County
11. Huckleberry Kids Pond at Santa Ana River Lakes
4060 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807
Huckleberry Kids Pond is the place for beginners — children and adults, alike. The pond is heavily stocked, you can bring your own equipment or rent a rod, and staff is available to answer questions and offer tips. In addition to the admission fee, you’ll pay for only the fish you catch. They are open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9 am to 3 pm.
12. Kids Fishing Clinic
34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629
Kids, ages 5-12, are invited to participate in a Kids Fishing Clinic where, dockside, kids will “learn hands-on techniques from the experts.” The experience includes the 30-minute clinic as well as a half-day fishing trip. On Sundays, kids fish for free after the clinic with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket. Details and booking information are available online.
13. Laguna Niguel Regional Park
28241 La Paz Rd., Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
You’ll find a 44-acre lake at Laguna Niguel Regional Park. The lake is regularly stocked with catfish, bass, and during winter months, trout. A fishing license is required for visitors over 16 years old. You’ll also find the park’s 227 acres is a great spot for exploring, picnicking, and spending a day outdoors with your family.
14. Don Knabe Community Regional Park
19700 S. Bloomfield Ave., Cerritos, CA 90703
Don Knabe Community Regional Park is a popular spot for families, because there is so much you can do in one spot. In addition to children’s play areas, basketball courts, swimming pools, picnic areas, a skate park, and tennis courts (just to name a few of the amenities), you’ll also find two fishing lakes there.
The lakes are stocked with rainbow trout during winter and spring and catfish during the summer. In addition, you may also reel in largemouth bass, carp, or bluegill, among other varieties.
15. Santa Ana River Lakes
4060 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807
Did you know you could go fishing in Anaheim? Well, you can, at Santa Ana River Lakes. The lakes are stocked every week and are open six days a week — they’re closed on Thursdays for stocking fish. Fish species you can find there vary by season, but include rainbow trout, catfish, bass, tilapia, and more. No fishing license is required. Check the website for all the details and prices.
Go Fishing Near Big Bear
16. Big Bear Lake
40824 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
You already know there’s a ton of fun to be had in Big Bear. But don’t forget to add fishing to the list of family-friendly activities. The most popular fish in Big Bear Lake is rainbow trout, but you’ll also find bluegill, largemouth bass, and other species.
You can choose to fish from the shore or go off on a boating adventure. Be sure to check the website for information about fishing licenses and fishing limits.
17. Lake Gregory Regional Park
24171 Lake Dr., Crestline, CA 92325
Lake Gregory Regional Park is often called a “hidden gem.” If you feel like going for a drive, heading out of L.A. for a bit, then this is the spot. The lake is stocked twice a month with 1,550 pounds of golden and rainbow trout.
You may fish from sunrise to sunset with a paid day pass or annual pass. Children 3 and under are free. A California State Fishing License and County Fishing License are required. You may pay all fees online so once you arrive, you’re ready to fish!
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).