Santa Ana River Lakes – Fishing in California

Fishing is a game that everyone can play because it does not require a lot of equipment. The equipment that is needed can be acquired by heading down to the hardware store and picking up some fishing gear.

There are many lakes near Santa Ana that offer great fishing, and these lakes are discussed in this blog post.

I will also provide some tips for fishing at these lakes so the reader will be able to make the most out of their time here.

About Santa Ana River Lakes

The Santa Ana River runs between Riverside and Orange County in Southern California. It begins at Banning Reservoir, a 1,200-acre lake formed by the construction of the 188 ft. tall Banning Dam on the Santa Ana River about 90 miles from where it empties into Newport Bay.

Night Bass Fishing At Santa Ana River Lakes - Western Bass Fishing - Bass Fishing Forums

The river flows for approximately 18 miles before draining into the Pacific Ocean at Huntington State Beach south of Newport Beach, California. Along the way, it passes through more than 20 lakes in some 17 named and unnamed reservoirs that lie on both sides of the river downstream from Banning Lake.

The Santa Ana River Lakes are an ideal location for local recreation such as fishing, camping, hiking and sightseeing. The lakes offer a variety of fishing options. The reservoirs are stocked with trout year round, and largemouth bass and catfish are also popular forms of recreation. During the winter months, the lakes are an oasis for waterfowl hunters looking to harvest geese.

Top species to catch :

1. Bluegill

The blue gill is a great species to catch because they are abundant and well known for their fight when hooked. They can also be used as bait if one does not care to keep them.

2. Brown bullhead

The brown bullhead makes its home in the lakes of Santa Ana and it is best to catch them when they are spawning. They are a good source of food and can grow up to 12 inches long which makes them suitable as pets in certain instances.

3. Crappie

The crappie is another species that is found abundantly in the lakes around Santa Ana. This fish has been featured on the fishing show, Bassmasters. Because of this, it is a fish that many anglers want to catch.

4. Bluegill sunfish

The bluegill sunfish can be found in abundance in the lakes and rivers around Santa Ana. The largest bluegills on record have been caught here. They are easy to identify from other species because they have large eyes and a noticeable hump.

5. Rainbow trout

The rainbow trout is not an indigenous species in the area but it has been stocked by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife which makes them readily available for anglers to catch. Catch rates vary depending on the season, but most people get their limit of these fish in one trip every time they visit the lake where they have been stocked.

Santa Ana River Lakes Fishing Tips

Always wear polarized sunglasses

You're going to be fishing in the southern California sun. You are probably already aware of how bright that can be, and wearing polarized lenses will help you see clearer underwater. Since we've established that you'll be fishing under water, I think it goes without saying that your glasses shouldn't go over your eyes.

Go early in the season

If you're fishing a warm-water lake, then you'll be going through a low-stocking period. That means that there will not be as many fish. The further you get into the summer, the higher the stocking levels tend to go as well. Quite simply if you want more fish and easier catches, go earlier in the season.

Find a spot that's not too close to houses or parks

You're going to want to have the peace and quiet that comes with being in a secluded spot. If you can't get away from people and noise, then it's probably better to find a different lake.

Bring a friend or family member

There are several reasons for this actually. When there are two of you, there's someone to help you build a fire, plus it's always nice to have company. That being said, you don't want to be the type of person who whines at your friend every time something goes wrong with fishing. If you are that guy, then that's alright; just go by yourself.

Bring a cooler and plenty of food or snacks

This is your fishing trip, and you should be allowed to eat whatever you want. Don't get all crazy and bring a bunch of junk food though! That's just unproductive; rather bring some sandwiches, water, etc. If you're going with someone else, then make sure they have the same mind-set as you.

Bring a light

This is especially true if you're going to be fishing at night. You'll have more fun by bringing a flashlight or even better, some glow sticks. If you happen to bring a cell phone, make sure it's fully charged before you go out.

Don't get in over your head

If there are small children in your party, then get something that can keep them entertained. If you're going to be fishing for a long period of time (more than 2 hours), bring some sort of chair or cushion along with you.

Bring plenty of hooks and lures

Maybe it's just me, but I'm always running out of bait when I go fishing. It's a good idea to bring more than you actually need, because that way you'll never run out.

Go during the off season

If you've gone through all of these tips and still haven't been able to find anything good, then maybe it's time for an alternative solution. Switch up the location or time that you're going fishing. For instance if you go to a lake near your home, try taking an extended trip somewhere else. Maybe you can drive up to one of the lakes in Big Bear, or drive down to the ocean somewhere and fish there.

Tackle check

If you have a fishing buddy who uses the same kind of poles as you, then see if they might want to bring their tackle down too. Just like when I went fishing and ran out of bait, it sucks when you run out of hooks or lures especially while out on the lake. You don't want to be the one person who has to ride back home with no hooks, just because you were too lazy to look through your tackle box.

Bring a fishing license

I'm sure there are a bunch of people who think that this information is common sense, but I've seen it enough times where people either forget their licenses or don't have one at all. Make sure that you always have your license with you, and don't be the guy who doesn't take it seriously.

Make sure that you're in a safe area

Although fishing is fun, it should never be done to the point where you're taking unnecessary risks. If there is slippery rocks or wet moss on the sides of the bank, then it's probably better if you sit back and watch rather than climbing up yourself.


Skim through the santa ana river lakes fishing tips above and make sure that you take advantage of all of them!

Thanks for reading as well; I hope this article will help you plan your next fishing trip with more success!


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