Castaic Lake Fishing: Your Guide to Huge Bass and More

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There are a lot of great bass fishing lakes out there, but few attain the truly legendary status that Castaic Lake has earned. If you were to call it the best bass lake on Earth, I’d have a hard time arguing with you. 

A man-made lake nestled among the hills of Los Angeles County, Castaic Lake first opened to the public in 1972. Surrounded by Castaic Lake State Recreation Area and just 45 minutes from Downtown LA, the lake was an instant hit among anglers.

Stocked with massive Florida-strain largemouth bass, the lake’s reputation—and the size of the fish being pulled from the lake—would only grow over the coming decades. 

Castaic’s place in history was secured in the early ’90s, when four bass weighing above 20 pounds (and another that came within a scant few ounces of that mark) were pulled from the Southern California lake in the span of just 13 months.

One of those fish, a 21-pound, 12-ounce beast, is still on the books as California’s official state record largemouth bass. 

But with all due respect to Castaic’s status as a trophy bass fishery, there’s more than cartoonishly gargantuan largemouths to draw anglers here. 

Castaic Lake is stocked every year with rainbow trout, and these fish provide great fishing during the cooler months. Striped bass have been established in Castaic as well, and there’s even a sleeper population of smallmouth bass that often gets overlooked.

You could just as easily spend your day at Castaic Lake chasing feisty panfish or bottom-fishing for channel catfish.

Castaic Lake is a well-rounded lake with a lot of possibilities. You don’t have to be obsessed with shattering any world records to have a good time fishing here. 

Part of what makes Castiac such a successful fishing lake is its location at the western end of the California Aqueduct, which is part of the California Water Project. The Aqueduct carries nutrients straight into Castaic Lake, supporting a rich and varied food web.

Actually, Castaic Lake is two lakes. 

The main or upper lake, a large V-shaped reservoir spanning a little over 2,230 acres and up to 330 feet deep, gets most of the attention. But the much smaller lower lake, a 197-acre pond often referred to as Castaic Lagoon, is also home to a lot of big fish. 

For the sake of clarity, we’ll be referring to the upper lake as Castaic Lake, and the lower lake simply as “the Lagoon.”

Largemouth Bass

There can be no doubt that many anglers who fish Castaic Lake are here for one reason: trophy largemouth bass.

The lake has become a tournament mainstay, and although elusive 20-plus-pound bass haven’t been caught here since the early ’90s, few lakes in California produce more 10-pounders.

Lake Castaic also supports a tremendous population of mid-sized largemouths in the 3- to 5-pound range in addition to the more elusive trophy fish.

Simply put, Castaic Lake is easily one of the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in Southern California.

Whether you’re trying to write your name in the record books or just want to spend a day hauling in feisty 5-pound bucketmouths, the best time of year to fish Castaic Lake is springtime. 

Most of the biggest bass from Castaic Lake have been caught in March. This is a month that usually finds big bass in various stages of pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn in different areas throughout the lake. 

Castaic Lake is nutrient-rich and supports abundant aquatic vegetation. It also has a lot of submerged timber, rocky shorelines, steep drop-offs and points, all of which can hold largemouths. 

For the most part, the best bass fishing tends to be in the eastern arm of the V-shaped Castaic Lake. Favorite spots include Government Cove, Sharon’s Rest, Suicide Point, C-Point and the area right around the lake’s main boat ramps. 

Smaller bass forage mainly on crawfish and threadfin shad, and a wide range of tactics can be effective. 

Diving crankbaits in shad patterns do the trick, along with jigs and a wide range of soft plastics, including soft jerkbaits, wacky worms and curlytail grubs. 

For trophy bass—those elusive lunkers tipping the scales well into the double digits—anglers tend to rely on two seemingly opposite tactics. 

The first is all about finesse.

Castaic Lake receives an insane level of fishing pressure, and big bass here have seen it all. Most of them have been caught before, and often the most effective way to tempt them is with simple, downsized presentations like straight-tailed finesse worms (Robo Worms are very popular). 

The best time to throw finesse worms is in summer, when fishing pressure and heavy boat traffic make bass especially wary. 

But sometimes a “go big or go home” mindset is more to your advantage.

Rainbow trout are stocked several times a year between November and April, and big bass gobble them up with abandon on days right after stocking takes place.

Some of the biggest bass here have been caught on huge trout-pattern swimbaits measuring 8 inches or more. 

Although the main lake gets most of the attention, the lagoon is always worthy of a few casts. Prior to an official fish-weighing station being built on Castaic Lake, the only certified scale in the area was at a store near the lagoon.

Anglers used to release their catches into the lagoon instead of the main lake after weighing them, simply because it was closer. These days, the lagoon has a thriving largemouth bass population all its own.

Pick up more great bass fishing tips and techniques.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout aren’t stocked in Castaic Lake merely to feed the largemouths. They offer an enjoyable fishery of their own

Besides put-and-take ponds, there aren’t a lot of reliable trout fishing lakes in the Los Angeles area. And during the chillier months from November through April, you’ll see just as many anglers out after trout as bass. 

Trout are planted at Castaic’s two boat ramps, which are located at either side of the dam.

The immediate area around the dam is the most popular place to catch them, as they prefer the deep, relatively cool water in this area. 

You can catch a lot of trout on Panther Martin spinners, Kastmaster lures and PowerBait, either by casting near the boat ramp areas or trolling deep water off the dam.

Shore fishing is also allowed from part of the dam.

Truly large trout are a rarity here. A few holdover trout weighing a few pounds are occasionally caught, but for the most part catches are dominated by freshly stocked trout measuring 12 inches or so. 

Rainbow trout are stocked in Castaic Lagoon too. More shore fishing access is available here, with productive spots including the fishing pier and the rocky south shore.

More: Trout Fishing: How-To Techniques and Tips and the Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Lakes in California.

Striped Bass

Striped bass found their way into Castaic Lake through the California Aqueduct, and have established a stable, self-sustaining population.

Like largemouths, stripers grow fat on a steady diet of shad and rainbow trout.

Unlike largemouths, stripers have a preference for deep, open waters.

Some of the most reliable spots to catch them include the area just off C-Point, Kong Island, West Walls and along the buoy line. Good catches have come from the steep drop-offs of Elizabeth Canyon as well.

Trolling is the easiest way to locate striped bass at Castaic Lake. Many anglers troll with crankbaits, swimbaits and plugs in either threadfin shad or rainbow trout patterns. 

Striper fishing starts to warm up toward the end of summer and reaches its peak in fall.

The bite slows down in winter, but some of the biggest stripers of the year often strike hefty trout imitations in cold weather.

Stripers are often 30 to 50 feet down in open water, but there are times—especially in fall—when they visibly feed on the surface, and can be targeted by casting topwater lures.

Castaic Lake produces a lot of striped bass in the 10-pound class, with fish occasionally surpassing 25 pounds. The current lake record weighed in just a hair over 43 pounds.

Castaic Lake is one of the best striped bass fishing lakes in California.

Other Fish Species

Some days, for whatever reason, the fish you planned to catch simply don’t want to cooperate. Fortunately, Castaic Lake offers a lot of options.

When the largemouths are wary and the trout have all but been fished out, sometimes a stringer of feisty panfish or a few hefty channel cats can save the day.

Catfish

Castaic Lake has a sizable population of channel catfish. You can catch them in both the main lake and the lagoon. 

The fishing for catfish starts to warm up during April and May most years, but it really goes into high gear during summer.

Local anglers catch catfish by fishing live nightcrawlers, chicken livers, anchovies and mackerel close to the bottom.

Night fishing is permitted the lagoon, making it a popular place to fish for catfish from shore.

On the main lake, the area around the dam is popular, and catfish can be caught in just about any of Castaic Lake’s many coves.

Learn more: How to Catch Catfish and the Best Catfish Fishing Lakes and Rivers in California.

Crappie

The lagoon is generally considered to be a far better bet for crappies than the main lake.

The introduction of striped bass is widely blamed for the decline of black crappie populations in Castaic Lake, but there are no striped bass in the lagoon.

In the lagoon, anglers catch lots of crappies every spring on small jigs and live minnows.

Weeds and brush throughout the lagoon can be productive, and the boat docks and rocky southern shoreline are popular spots.

The lighted 24-fishing pier on the lagoon is especially popular during the evening hours and after dark. The pier’s lights attract plankton, which attract minnows, which attract crappies.

More good stuff: Pick up some more crappie fishing tips and techniques and find the best crappie fishing in California.

Bluegill

Bluegill don’t often get the credit they deserve, but Castaic Lake certainly has a lot of them.

There are big ‘gills out there too, and if you’ve ever wrangled in a 1.5-pound sunfish on ultralight tackle, then you know how hard they can fight.

Nightcrawlers and meal worms are favorite bluegill baits at Castaic Lake, and they bite readily all summer long.

Small jigs can be effective too, and jigging is often a great way to catch an assortment of crappies and sunfish.

Some of the best bluegill fishing on Castaic Lake takes place in the Dry Gulch area, which reliably produces big bluegill.

You’ll find a lot of bluegill in the lagoon too, and you can catch them around practically any weed bed and boat dock.

More: Learn how to easily catch bluegill and other sunfish

Smallmouth Bass

While not nearly as abundant as largemouth bass, Castaic Lake also harbors a decent population of smallmouth bass.

Anglers can find themselves tangling with 2- to 3-pound smallies while targeting largemouths. 

Smallmouths inhabit may of the same areas, but they show a definite preference for rocky habitat.

Trout Point and Taylor’s Spur are often productive, and any major points leading to flats have potential. 

Elizabeth Canyon is a good spot too. Mixed bags of smallmouths, largemouths and stripers are common here as summer turns to fall.

As with largemouths, smallmouths often snap up jigs, drop-shot or Caroline rig plastic worms and live bait such as shad or crayfish.

Interested in catching more smallies? Check out our rundown of the best smallmouth bass fishing lakes and rivers in California.

Planning Your Trip

Castaic Lake has been broken up into sections, with differing regulations and various uses in each section.

Water skiers and other types of power boating are restricted to the western arm of the V-shaped lake, which is often referred to as the “ski arm.”

And although most of the lake open to fishing, anglers tend to favor the eastern arm (i.e the “fish arm”) where they can avoid the swarms of pleasure boaters that dominate the western half.

The only part of the lake that is truly off-limits is “personal watercraft area” near the dam. 

Castaic Lake is one of the most popular fishing lakes in California. Since it’s also a major attraction for water skiers, jet skis and other recreational activities, it’s one of SoCal’s busier bodies of water.

On prime fishing days during spring and summer, the fishing pressure and boat traffic can be tremendous. It’s not uncommon to see bass boats stacked up at main lake points, each waiting their turn for a few casts at a prime spot.

If you have the option of visiting on a weekday, it’s probably wise to do so. 

Getting There

Castaic Lake is located about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, right off Interstate 5 just north of Santa Clarita and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Take the Lake Hughes Road exit off I-5 and head east toward the lake entrance.

The lake is accessible only through Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, which offers a wide range of amenities including boat ramps, picnic areas, boat rentals, camping and a bait shop.

A day use fee is required to access the lake ($11 at the time of publication). Castaic Lake is open daily from dawn until dusk. Night fishing is permitted only at the lagoon. 

Bank and Boat Access

Castaic Lake has two boat launch sites, located on either side of the dam, with 18 total boat ramp lanes. 

The more heavily used East Ramp—often referred to as the Main Ramp—is located on the east side of the dam.

At the East Ramp you’ll find Castaic Landing, which offers boat rentals, marina services, and a fully stocked store and bait shop. This area has the main launch ramp used by anglers, while the West Ramp is favored by pleasure boaters and personal watercraft.

Despite having nearly 30 miles of shoreline, limited shore fishing access is scattered around at various points around Castaic Lake. The dam is the most popular spot for bank fishing. Fishing is not permitted off the boat docks and launch ramps. 

The lagoon is a very different story. Abundant shore fishing access is available around much of its shoreline, and the 24-hour fishing pier is a great place for shore fishermen to start.

Fishing from kayaks, canoes and float tubes is also popular in the lagoon, where motorized craft are restricted to electric motors only. Castaic Lake State Recreation Area offers kayaks for rent.

There is a designated swim beach (open seasonally) on the lower lake.

Camping at Castaic Lake

Castaic Lake State Recreation Area includes a campground with sites for both tents and RVs. The sites are located near the shore of the lagoon, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations are available, so make a plan to snag a spot, especially in the busiest summer season..

Additional camping is provided at Castaic Lake RV Park, not far from the lake, as well as several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds in nearby Angeles National Forest.