Big Bear Lake, CA Fishing: Where Four-Season Fishing Takes Place

Fish along the small town of Big Bear Lake, CA, and experience a four-season mountain and lake escape that is out of the ordinary.

Big Bear Lake, CA Fishing: Where Four-Season Fishing Takes Place
Big Bear Lake, CA Fishing: Where Four-Season Fishing Takes Place
Team Guidesly

October 28, 2021, 8 min read

Updated on October 27, 2021

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On the south shore of Big Bear Lake lies a small city that took its name. Big Bear Lake, California is a small city in San Bernardino County, in the San Bernardino Mountains. With a total area of just 6.5 square miles, only 0.2 square miles of it is water. 

Before Big Bear Lake is known to be the city today, the indigenous Serrano people used to inhabit the land. Big Bear Lake was considered to be a mecca for gold mining during that time. It was discovered in the year 1860 when a hunter, William Holcomb, discovered gold in the backcountry of the city after tracing a bear’s blood trail. This led him to the creek which gleams with flakes of gold. His best efforts to keep this discovery did not last long. The word spread like wildfire causing Southern California’s largest gold rush to begin from 1860 to 1875.

Today, Big Bear Lake is a popular resort called Yuhaviat which is the Serrano people’s Native American word for “pine place.” For more than a thousand years, this has been the name of this little valley. However, in 1845, Benjamin Davis Wilson and his crew rode in the Yuhaviat Valley and found it crawling with grizzly bears. And because of this, Yuhaviat Valley is what we know of today as the Big Bear Lake. And as rich as the history of this small city, is the beauty it holds and all the different activities it offers.

Big Bear Lake Fishing

Big Bear Lake is considered to be Southern California’s four-season mountain lake escape due to its stunning landscapes, tall green trees, and amazing waters. The city is known for its perfect summer temperatures and a fantastic array of outdoor activities. The top on the list of these activities is angling. Thanks to the moderate summer temperatures, fish in this part of California stay active even on the warmest of days. 

Though the small city of Big Bear Lake only comprises 0.2 square miles of water, angling opportunities in the area do not fall short. In addition, there are also different and multiple fishing locations in this small city, and wherever you go, the catch will always be productive. Let’s start with Big Bear Lake.

Most of you might say that the city was named after the lake, but it’s the other way around because the lake was discovered years after the city was named. Big Bear Lake has a surface area of 2,971 acres and about 22 miles of shoreline. Fishing in this lake is productive during spring, summer, and fall, but may be closed during the winter when the lake freezes. It is a spine freshwater fishing haven that allows anglers to land on different species of fish like trout, catfish, and bass. For visiting anglers, locals suggest that shoreline fishing, boat fishing, and trolling are some of the best fishing techniques one can do when in big Bear Lake. Meanwhile, spearfishing and chumming won’t give them a productive catch. But, what fish species are available in this lake?

First is the rainbow trout. This species is one of the most popular species of fish found in the lake. The lake serves as a first-rate trout fishery habitat because its depths allow trout to thrive, even during the warmest days on summers. If you want to track down some rainbow trouts during your visit, rigging deeper waters and trolling lead-core lines at three colors or more is the best method to use. These fish species are most of the time spotted towards the west end of the lake during summer. Meanwhiles, the areas near the dam have the most angling action when shore fishing.

Panfish, like bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappie, is another popular catch in Big Bear Lake. This fish species likes the shallow areas of the like and usually travels in school together with the other species of panfish. They usually bite anything you throw at them which makes them fun to catch. What you need to remember though is that these species have small mouths, so using smaller hooks and baits would be the key to a productive catch. However, if you plan on landing on some crappies, using jigs with a marabou skirt and minnows as bait works best. Meanwhiles, bluegill will love small lures, spinners, nightcrawlers, and power bait.

Another popular catch would be the channel catfish, especially during summer. These fish inhale stink baits, shrimp, mackerel, and even chicken liver. They are mostly found on the east end of the lake near Stanfield cutoff and East Boat Public Launch Ramp.

Big Bear Lake is also filled with largemouth bass especially during summer. This is because they get hungry during the spawning season making them attack anything thrown at them. If you are on eye on landing on them, using cranks with baits such as Rapala, husky jerks, Luhr Jensen Mini Speed Traps, and plastic fished Carolina near docks, weed beds, and rocks may yield good results.

However, if you plan on fishing on Big Bear Lake, please be aware that bow and arrow fishing is only allowed for carp fishing only. There are also certain bag limits for different fish pieces. Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass have a maximum daily bag limit of five while a bag limit of 25 is allowed for a combined catch of bluegill, sunfish, crappie, and pumpkinseed

Other species like northern pike, cisco, whitefish, lake sturgeon, paddlefish, yellow bass, white bass, shovelnose sturgeon, and white perch can also be spotted in Big Bear Lake. 

So where are the best fishing locations in Big Bear Lake as the season changes? For boat fishing, the portion of Pine Knot Landing to Observatory and Gilner Point would yield the most productive catch during the months of April, May, and June. meanwhiles, the areas between Stanfield Cutoff and Juniper Points would yield the most productive catch during this time of the year. In the Summer months of June, July, and August, the best spot for boat fishing will be from Windy Point west to the dam. If you happen to fish early morning, the south shore would yield the most productive catch while the north shore would be best during late afternoons. Meanwhile, shore fishing would be best in North Shore Landing during June and Gray’s Landing towards the dam during Jule and August. Lastly, during the months of September to October, the East of Windy Point towards the Observatory would be best for boat fishing, and Northshore Landing towards the Observatory would be best for shore fishing.

While Big Bear Lake alone will give you a great angling experience, there are other more different lakes in the city that yields a productive catch as well. One of which is Jenks Lake where you can land on some stocked rainbow trout during spring and summer. One can also catch some largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and catfish here. Next would be the Green Valley Lake where an abundant species of rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish, and bluegill are present. The Arrowbear Lake is also a notable fishing spot in the city. Here winter fishing will yield a productive catch of rainbow trout and lake trout. Lastly, is the Santa Ana River which is home to different trouts like rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout year-round. One can also land on some spotted sand bass and California halibut


Top 10 Fish Species in Big Bear Lake, CA

The top 10 fish species in Big Bear Lake, CA are rainbow trout, redear sunfish, lake trout, brown trout, California halibut, Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappie.

Big Bear Lake Fishing Seasonality

Big Bear Lake fishing is open year-round for quite a number of species including white perch, ruffe, round goby, rough fish rock bass, yellow bass, white bass, cisco, whitefish, catfish, and different types of panfish. However, if you want to land on some specific species, visiting Big Bear Lake during its peak season will be the most rewarding experience for you.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, sauger, and northern pike are on peak during the first of the months of May to March, each having a different daily bag size and length limits. Muskellunge are on peak during the months of June to December with a daily bag limit of 1 and a minimum length limit of 40 inches. Meanwhile, fishing is not allowed on certain species like the shovelnose sturgeon, paddlefish, and lake sturgeon.

Visit and Explore Big Bear Lake

1.Book a Fishing Charter

Do not underestimate the small portion of water available in Big Bear Lake. though small, the angling opportunities it offers and the fish species in the area are rich. Thus, for first-time visitors, angling might be quite overwhelming. That is why it will be helpful to have some of the best local guides who can bring you to the island’s best spots. So make sure to book your local guide to help you get the best angling experience possible.

2. Try Out Some Winter Activities

Winter activities are just as fun as the other seasons. Big Bear Lake offers winter activities that are fun and enjoyable to a lot of family members. One can go for a hike in the forest. If you are an adventure seeker, you can go skiing and snowboarding too. There is even a bike trail where one could have an epic mountain bike ride while witnessing the spectacular view of Big Bear Lake.

3. Visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Big Bear Alpine zoo was first set up in the year 1959. It served as a rehabilitation center for injured animals after a forest fire. Then it became a zoo that hosts wounded or orphaned animals and those who cannot adapt to their natural habitat for some reason.

Fish in Big Bear Lake and beyond.