Lake Arrowhead Fishing: Complete Angler’s Guide

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This article is a guide from one of our local writers experienced with fishing at Lake Arrowhead, a private Southern California mountain lake. If you have lake access to Arrowhead’s waters (or know someone who can invite you), the fishing here for trout, bass, and other gamefish is outstanding.

When I first fished this private lake, I was always with a business associate named Dave, who had a vacation home in the Lake Arrowhead community and was an avid fly fisherman. 

Even though his family vacation home was small and quite a distance from this lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, they still had lake privileges as members of the Arrowhead Lake Association.

We soon discovered the lake has a fantastic fishery due to relatively low fishing pressure and a generous trout stocking program.

While our trips were years ago, Lake Arrowhead still has a great fisheries program, and this cold deep lake produces some fantastic fishing results today.

Lake Arrowhead is very deep, with a maximum depth of 183 feet, but it also has many shallow spots and a small beach area. It’s a good-sized but not massive lake at about 780 acres.

Lake Arrowhead Fishing Spots

A boat motors toward the docks at Lake Arrowhead.
Photo by filedimage (Depositphotos)

Nearly all bank fishing is from the thousands of private docks that line the heavily developed residential shoreline.

Most property owners share a floating dock with other owners. They usually post their docks with no fishing signs, so be sure to respect property rights and other areas posted “No Fishing Allowed.”

There is one floating fishing dock for the residents and their guests to fish without a boat, but the ALA-member residents must always be present.

The best way to fish Lake Arrowhead is on the water from a boat, canoe, float tube, or other ALA-approved vessels.

Boaters have far more options to try, including points of land, submerged boulders and rock formations, floating docks, and top Lake Arrowhead fishing spots.

Also, water sports, including water skiing, are hugely popular here, particularly during the summer. So start early during the high season or choose another time of year.

Despite the private access, you’ll still need a valid fishing license and must follow California fishing regulations.

Trout Fishing

The State of California and private vendors stock Lake Arrowhead, especially with hatchery rainbow trout.

At times there also have been significant but elusive populations of brown trout roaming the deeper parts of this reservoir.

These browns offer boat anglers a chance to hook into a real monster, and some sources have reported kokanee salmon in the lake, but it’s the abundant rainbows that are the most popular quarry at Lake Arrowhead.

We found out that trolling in the early morning and using lead core line with a 25-foot monofilament leader and a Rapala spoon in fire tiger color worked the best.

We were trolling at about three colors on the marked lead core line, roughly at 25 feet deep and even though the lake and trolling areas are deep.

You might take about an hour to complete a circle trolling the lake in this size lake. Your trolling route can get reasonably close to shore thanks to mostly steep shorelines. However, the water tends to be shallower in some of the bigger bays.

A fish finder will come in handy to track depth and possibly find where the fish are holding.

Bank anglers will most often do well bait fishing. Natural or artificial trout baits, including nightcrawlers and PowerBait, are popular choices. 

More: Catch more fish with our easy trout fishing guide.

Bass Fishing

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass inhabit the lake, but unlike most Southern California lakes, the smallmouths rule here.

After trout, Lake Arrowhead is known as a great smallmouth bass fishing lake. Smallmouths, which often thrive in cooler and rockier habitats than largemouths, draw plenty of bass anglers.

Casting typical bass lures in smaller sizes is a common approach, and jigs are often a smallmouth fishing staple. 

Topwater fishing is another very effective option for bass later in the summer months when the weeds start to grow. Making your lure fall off a dock like a mouse or other critter landing in the water works very well.

However, since this lake’s smallmouths and other predatory fish eat plenty of silver shad, trolling a lure that resembles these baitfish covers lots of water and can be very effective.

More Gamefish

Besides trout and bass, Lake Arrowhead’s fish include excellent populations of crappie, bluegill, catfish, carp and other species.

Crappie and Bluegill

In the spring, you may find cleared nests of panfish, including bluegill and crappie all along the extensive shoreline.

I can attest that the panfish bite is surprisingly intense for a few weeks after the spawn and again at the beginning of the fall season.

I was using a longer jig rod and simply flipping the jig up and under some of the docks and was rewarded with massive panfish almost every cast.


Anglers usually catch channel catfish with simple methods, often by fishing on the bottom with various baits. Popular baits range from worms to cut fish and shrimp, to prepared catfish baits.


Carp will often bite dough balls, corn or prepared carp baits, but they’ll also pick up worms or other baits while you fish for trout or catfish.

Be aware that a large carp will fight better than most fish in freshwater, and they’ve been known to wreck ultralight tackle.

Visiting Lake Arrowhead

Aerial view of Lake Arrowhead in California's San Bernardino County.
Photo by henskier (Depositphotos)

Lake Arrowhead is 88 miles from downtown Los Angeles and 15 miles from the San Bernardino city limits. It’s surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, and the area makes a perfect spot for a day trip or a weekend.

The unincorporated community of Lake Arrowhead is built all around the reservoir with the same name. The lake water comes from tributary streams, rain and snow runoff, and wells.

Most Angelinos make this a day trip to either play in the snow or enjoy the summer activities.

The winding and scenic drive up State Route 18 through rural San Bernardino County is awe-inspiring. It has many turnouts for photo opportunities as you look down into the valleys towards the L.A. Basin.  

With the lake’s elevation of just over 5,100 feet, this community receives a fair amount of snow each year. It’s located west of Big Bear Lake, a famous winter ski resort and summertime destination.

Lake Arrowhead’s commercial areas rely on tourism and have a wonderful atmosphere of shops and activities centered on Lake Arrowhead Village. There are multiple hotels, lodges, B&B, and other accommodations available throughout the year, including Lake Arrowhead Resort.

However, as mentioned, the general public has limited access to the lake, including no boat or fishing access.

Residents must belong to the Arrowhead Lake Association (ALA) to have fishing and boating access to the lake. Even residents who aren’t ALA members do not have lake access.

You can learn more on the Arrowhead Lake Association’s website or by calling 909-337-2595.

Find More Fishing Spots in San Bernardino County