At some point, just about every boy and girl will want to try fishing. Whether you plan to eat your haul or catch and release, fishing is a time-honored, relaxing way for kids and parents or grandparents to spend quality quiet time together—and it's a classic summer activity. Why not start with a free wharf fishing clinic, to learn fishing basics or ocean fishing, then head out to one of the spots below on your own!
In public waters, fishing licenses are required for anyone 16 or older (whether you plan to fish or just "help," that means you, Mom or Dad!); this includes city and county parks, state parks, the ocean, and national forest waters. Fishing licenses can be purchased at sporting goods stores including Big 5, Sport Chalet, Walmart, and many independent tackle shops. Private fishing areas do not require licenses. Most local lakes are stocked with trout in the winter and catfish in the summer—bass, panfish, and carp are also in most fresh-water locations. Be aware that different locations have different limits as to how many fish of each species you can take, and the limits may change over time; these limits are generally posted and available from rangers or other staff. And remember—you even need a license to catch grunion in season!
32132 Castaic Lake Drive
Vehicle entry: $11 (cash only for day use); camping $20/night (reservations recommended)
See website for open hours (generally dawn-dusk year-round); closed Christmas.
Run by the LA County Parks and Rec Department, Castaic Lake has two main areas: the lagoon/lower lake and the upper lake. In addition to a fishing pier, the Lagoon also has summer swimming and non-gas powered boating, a campground, and picnic areas, while the upper lake has fishing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and jetskiing in designated areas. The lake hosts several Moonlight Fishing nights in the summer, and the first Saturday in May is Fishing and Fun for Kids day (with fishing lessons, arts and crafts, and giveaways). The website features recent fish reports and tips for fishing specific to Castaic Lake. Boat rentals are available. Parks and Rec will not allow new entries if maximum capacity is reached; this is most likely to occur on summer weekends, so arrive early!
Don Knabe Regional County Park
19800 Bloomfield Ave
Cerritos Park Lake is stocked with rainbow trout in the winter and spring, and catfish in the summer. There are also bass and panfish in the lake. Every June there is a kids' fishing derby (ages 5-15) at this lake—if your kids enjoy fishing, put this on your calendar! This is a large park, with playgrounds, a skate park, tennis courts, and more. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.
El Dorado East Regional Park
7550 E Spring St.
Long Beach 90815
Vehicle entry: $5 Mon-Thur; $6 Fri, $7 weekends; $8 holidays (CASH ONLY)
Open in the winter 7am-5pm and spring/summer 7am-8pm.
This large Long Beach park has two stocked fishing lakes. The northern lake is larger, with a boat launch. These lakes have bass, panfish, sunfish, carp, and stocked trout and catfish. Check with the park for current limits, and don't forget the fishing licenses for adults. This is a surprisingly good place for bass, especially near the rushes early in the morning, but they prefer these be released. A free entry kids' fishing derby is held each November. If you visit El Dorado Park, don't miss the nature center!
Prado Regional Park
16700 S. Euclid Avenue
Admission: $8/vehicle weekdays; $10/vehicle weekends and holidays; $3 walk-in; $1 dogs on leash, $10 daily fishing permit Mon-Thur, $12 Fri-Sun, must be turned in upon leaving (in addition to state license)
Summer fishing hours: Mon-Thu 7:30am-6pm; Fri-Sun 7:30am-8pm
In addition to its 60-acre lake, Prado features a campground, disc golf course, hiking and biking, pedal boat rentals, and a large playground with a zero-depth water play area. The lake is stocked every other Thursday, with fishing permitted on stocking days.
Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park
120 Via Verde
San Dimas 91773
Summer fishing hours: from shore sunrise-9pm; from boat sunrise-sunset
Puddingstone has the usual SoCal variety of fish: trout, catfish, bass, carp, and panfish. The east and south shores are more popular for shoreline fishing. Puddingstone hosts three fishing derbies each year. Maybe that's a bit much for young kids, but they will enjoy the swimming beach, trails, horseback riding, camping, and playgrounds that are available in this park. Be sure to check out their catch fishing limits.
Legg Lake at the Whittier Rec Center
823 Lexington Rd
South El Monte, CA 91733
$6 Entry Fee/vehicle
Just a short drive from LA (off the 60 and the 164), this is a small lake that has trout fall through spring and catfish in the summer. A bike trail wraps around the lake if you want to take a spin before or after you cast your line.
Huckleberry Kids Pond
at Santa Ana River Lakes
4060 E La Palma Ave
Admission: $3/rod, $8 per pound of fish; rod rentals $5 (bait included). Huckleberry Pond only; Santa Ana River Lakes entry is an additional fee; see website for costs, limits, hours, fish species.
Huckleberry Fish Pond is designed just for kids to learn how to fish—and there is no age limit, so parents can learn too. The pond is heavily stocked with trout and/or catfish. Bring your own rod, or rent one. Staff is there to answer questions and help kids with rigging and to offer fishing tips. Fish cleaning and ice are available. There is no catch and release permitted; your kids are guaranteed to catch dinner!
Be sure to check out all the fishing locations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Originally published July 15, 2012