Diamond Valley Lake Fishing: Top Tips and Tactics

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Diamond Valley Lake has some of the best fishing that Southern California has to offer.

Well known as an excellent bass fishery, Diamond Valley also has several other species of game fish from which to choose.

The reservoir’s fishing options go well beyond the bass boat crowd. Diamond Valley has great numbers of blue and channel catfish, stocked rainbow trout, and lots of big panfish all worth targeting on their own merit.

Located in Hemet in western Riverside County, the lake is easily accessible and has everything from a well-equipped marina to floating restrooms.

Diamond Valley Lake is a reservoir created by placing three dams around the valley. Covering some 4,500 surface acres when full, it is the largest reservoir in this arid region.

It was filled by the Colorado River Aqueduct and has been set aside as emergency use drinking water for Southern California.

Since it has that designation, body contact with the water is not allowed. That means no swimming or water sports are permitted, but thankfully you can still fish its rich waters.

Bass Fishing

Black bass draw in the crowds from all around the world.

Diamond Valley Lake is famous for its many bass tournaments and the overall quality of its bass habitat.

Healthy, aggressive largemouth and smallmouth bass will take down a bluegill swimbait like it’s a piece of candy.

They love big, over-the-top presentations, and if you’re both good and lucky, Diamond Valley might just reward you with the possibility of landing not just one but multiple 10-pounders in an unforgettable day.

Check the current regulations to ensure proper handling of the smallmouth bass you catch. They are catch and release only.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass have found the habitat of Diamond Valley Lake to be the perfect place to grow big, fat and energetic.

The abundance of baitfish and forage in the lake allow young bass to grow quickly, leading to some trophy fish being caught regularly along with good numbers of respectable bass.

Diamond Valley Lake’s impressive fishery landed it a spot on our Best Largemouth Bass Fishing Lakes in Southern California.

Just as it is in most waters, largies are all about the topwater early in the day and during the cooler evening hours. You would do well to cast some shad patterns. Look for shad near the surface and throw some shallow cranks in shad patterns. 

Once the waters warm into the mid-70s to 80s, you will be better served to go deeper with Roboworms, Senkos and other finesse setups.

Ned rigs can do very well in the 15-25 foot range. Use a watermelon/purple color or a more natural color on overcast days.

Cooler weather will find the bass holding in shallower waters, waiting for a tempting topwater.

Early spring through late June is an opportune time to get them during the spawn.

The males hold back after the females lay the eggs to protect the nest from bluegill. The bluegill move in for their own spawn, so they make a great bait to imitate. 

October through February, find the bass holding deeper when the water temperatures fall enough.

However, it’s possible to locate them in the shallows throughout the winter on warmer days.

Be sure to check the bays and smaller coves, fishing the shoreline at an angle. The bigger fish are holding in the dense submerged underbrush throughout the lake. 

The pressure is on for most of the spring through fall, with tournaments being held regularly. When the lake is free of bass tournaments, it’s full of anglers preparing for the next tournament.

Weekends can be pretty busy, to put it mildly, so if possible hit the water during the week.

Smallmouth Bass

While the largemouths are the main show here when it comes to black bass, anglers also report catching some smallmouth bass.

While it’s probably best to focus on those largies and pick up the occasional smallmouth as an incidental catch, if you target them specifically you might downsize your lure and look for the rockiest habitat you can find.

Be sure to check the latest regulations for smallmouth bass. Several sources list them as catch-and-release only, but rules can change over time.

If you’d like to increase your odds of catching these hard-fighting bass, check out the best smallmouth bass fishing spots in California.

Catch More Bass

Check out our how-to guide full of tips and techniques for catching largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Striped Bass Fishing

For a fish that isn’t supposed to be in Diamond Valley Lake, stripers have certainly made their presence known. 

Follow the shad for your best chances of catching stripers. They are known to start boils throughout the lake, leading to fantastic, super fast-paced fishing.

Big Kastmasters, Zara Spooks and cut baits work great striped bass at Diamond Valley Lake.

But don’t get too close to the active boils. The stripers can be a bit skittish and will take off, diving deeper and losing their appetites. Long casts are in order.

When the striped bass are not visibly chasing shad at the surface, try fishing in the 20- to 50-foot range with a slow troll.

Tip your Kastmasters with a bit of anchovy, mackerel, or sardine.

Once you find them on your electronics, or on the end of your line, stick with the zone and you’re in for a good time. 

Colder weather puts stripers down to the 40- to 60-foot range. The same techniques as before will work, though they don’t become very active until spring.

Catch More Stripers

Find all the top waters (including more SoCal spots) in our Best Striped Bass Fishing in California. Now, learn to catch more of them with out favorite freshwater striper fishing techniques.

Trout Fishing 

Trout are readily available from late September through late spring, but the heat of the summer finds them diving deeper.

At Diamond Valley Lake, deeper means anywhere between 30 and 150 feet. The deepest parts of the lake go to 260-plus feet when the lake is full. 

Trolling will provide the most consistent action here, whether you’re after rainbows or lightning trout.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout provide an excellent target at Diamond Valley Lake. They are big, aggressive and tasty.

Find rainbows deep in the summer and shallow in the winter.

Sounds straightforward, right? Well, you’ll first need to dial them in, find the right bait, depth, trolling speed and what area you need to focus your efforts. 

Trout hold deep when the water gets over 60 or 65 degrees.

Cooler than that will find them cruising the shallower edges searching for food such as minnows and insects.

Warmer than that will send you on a more in-depth search of the lake. Start at 25 feet and go deeper as you start locating them. 

Start your route at the eastern dam and head west, making sure to stay closer to the southern shore. Repeat this and close the gap to the north shore.

The western end is the deepest at over 260 feet, while the eastern depth is around 165 feet.

Keep the depth variances in mind to ensure you don’t set your trolling depth too deep and get hung up. 

Use shad or nightcrawlers to get the bigger ‘bows out there.

If fishing is slow, focus your energy on the southwest corner. It is considered the best rainbow spot on the lake.

Lures and baits both do well from shore, but realistically only in the cooler months. You might catch a rainbow on one cast and a lightning trout on the next.

The water doesn’t stay cool for very long in the broiling valley, so trout are only shallow for a handful of months. That’s why most of the year, the trolling option is the preferred method here.

Lightning Trout

The lightning trout, which are simply a genetic strain of rainbow trout, tend to hold in the shallows after being planted in cold months. Watch the planting schedule, and you should be able to find the right day to get there.

Once the water warms, they tend to hang out with their rainbow cousins in deeper water. The same techniques as rainbow trout will work well here.

Catch More Trout

Read up on the fishing techniques and tips that will fool rainbows and other types of trout.

While you’re at it, also check out the very best rainbow trout fishing lakes in California. Or maybe you prefer giant brown trout or lake trout (Mackinaw)?

Catfish Fishing

Blue and channel catfish call Diamond Valley Lake home.

The blues get to gigantic sizes, while the channel cats have huge numbers. Targeting either can be a lot of fun.

Blue Catfish

Blue cats in Diamond Valley Lake are doing very well. Catches in the 50-pound range aren’t unheard of.

Target the bays and coves along the shoreline once the water is warm enough.

You should find blues in decent numbers throughout Rawson Cove, Third Cove and the stairways along the dams. The cove around restroom two can be excellent as well.

Anchovies, mackerel and nightcrawlers all do well for blues. Add a stink bait, and you’re in a good position to catch a few.

Channel Catfish

Channel cats are common here at Diamond Valley Lake.

Fish in the 6- to 12-pound range are expected, with bigger fish frequently caught. Targeting them is easy and uses the same techniques as the blue cats. 

Stinky bait is critical. Chicken livers, cut oily fish such as mackerel, and other pungent baits work great, typically fished on or near the bottom where catfish spend most of their time feeding.

Got catfish on your itinerary? Check out our selection of the Best Catfish Fishing Lakes and Rivers in California and then learn to hook more with Catfish Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips (including best catfish baits).

Bluegill and Other Sunfish 

Redear sunfish are everywhere at Diamond Valley Lake, with sizes in the 3- to 4-pound range being almost commonplace and lots of smaller but respectable fish available.

Diamond Valley is one of the few places in California that can rival Lake Havasu when it comes to producing plate-sized redears.

Redear are found throughout the shallower portions of the entire lake. Use small crappie jigs tipped with wax or mealworms.

Bluegill similarly tend to get big here and also provide the opportunity for new anglers to catch lots of scrappy fish in a hurry. 

Mealworms or other small natural baits can catch a bucket of bluegills and other sunfish in no time. Try from the dock or other shady cover.

Crappie Fishing 

Both black crappie and white crappie are found in good numbers in Rawson Cove and near the eastern shore.

These are schooling fish, so find one and you might just have a basket of slabs in minutes.

Search cover like submerged trees, bushes, and any logs, pilings or other cover for the best chances.

It may very well take some looking around the lake until you find crappie. They often move, chasing their favorite foods such as minnows.

Use crappie jigs and small Kastmasters to imitate their favorite foods.

Check this out: Catch more crappie with our favorite fishing techniques and tips.

Also find the most slab-worthy spots in our Best Crappie Fishing Lakes in California.

Planning Your Trip

Created by constructing three dams and managed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Diamond Valley Lake is a unique fishery and recreational area within a reasonable drive from almost anywhere in Southern California.

For example, the reservoir is about 85 miles north of San Diego and just a bit farther heading southeast from Los Angeles, with a number of suburban cities being much closer.

There is a water park located near the marina, which offers all the aquatic center-style fun your kids might hope for. Hiking and biking are also very popular on the 22-plus miles of trails around the lake.

Another cool attraction near the lake is the Western Science Center, which includes a permanent display of artifacts found during excavation while the huge reservoir’s dams were being built.

Diamond Valley Lake also happens to be close to several other major freshwater fisheries, so you can spend a few days trying different lakes without long drives.

Among some other top local fishing options are Lake Skinner, Lake Elsinore and Lake Perris (Perris Reservoir).

Boat and Shore Access

Shore access is tough around large parts of the lake, but bank fishing is available around Diamond Valley Marina and the north and south shores.

Rawson Cove and Third Cove are some of the more popular shore fishing areas. Third Cove has the closest deep-water access.

Nevertheless, this is a big place and boating is the ideal way to experience the lake.

You can bring your own boat (as long as it meeting certain requirements) or take advantage of the boat rentals at Diamond Valley Marina. See their website for various boating rules.

Trolling, jigging in coves, casting top waters, and any other approach you may want to try can all produce good numbers of fish.

Lodging and Camping

Hotels and restaurants are found within a short drive of the lake.

Whether you want a cheap room to shower in between epic fishing marathons or a 4-star hotel for you and the family, you’ll be able to find what you need relatively close.

Camping and RV parks can be found in the area, though reserving well in advance is recommended. The fall and spring find this area inundated with camping enthusiasts.

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