Legg Lake Fishing: Angler’s Guide to Whittier Narrows Park

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Legg Lake is one of the most popular urban fishing spots in Los Angeles County.

What is actually three connect lakes in the popular Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte is regularly stocked with trout in cooler weather and also gets plantings of channel catfish.

In addition, the lakes also are home to resident bass, panfish and carp, among other species you might catch here.

It’s a year-round fishing spot, sometimes locally called Legg Lake Park. It’s a great place to get your kids into fishing because there’s almost always something biting.

Legg Lake (or Legg Lakes) is the common name for the lakes as a whole and often the map label on the largest and southernmost of this trio of lakes.

The largest lake also is known as South Lake, while the smallest Center Lake and mid-sized North Lake stretch toward the intersection of the Pomona Freeway and Rosemead Boulevard.

Trout Fishing

Legg Lake is typically stocked with hatchery trout a few times each year after the water cools down. Trout planting can occur in late fall, winter, or into early spring but never in the summer.

Trout fishing is very seasonal here. These coldwater fish cannot survive in these shallow lakes during the warmer months. Trout are stocked for anglers to catch and keep to eat.

Rainbow trout, the most common hatchery-raised species in California, are easy to catch with a variety of methods.

The most popular way to catch stocked trout is by bait fishing. Floating baits such as Berkley PowerBait work best fished near the bottom, with a light leader of 18 to 36 inches to allow the bait to rise directly into the path of the fish.

Fishing with a bobber is another great way to catch trout on bait. For this tactic, sinking baits, including nightcrawlers and salmon eggs, are your best bets. Set the float 2 to 3 feet above the baited hook.

If you like a more active style of fishing, try casting and retrieving spinners or spoons. Fly fishing also can be a fun way to catch even stocked trout if you have room to cast safely.

Legg Lake Stocking

Trout fishing will be best for a week or two immediately after planting, so keep a close eye on the stocking reports on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website linked below.

Exact stocking dates will vary due to factors that might include water conditions, fish availability, and others.

Simply as an example, the last time we checked for recent stocking here, trout were planted in mid-November and mid-December. (Catfish were stocked in October.)

Bass Fishing

Anglers also fish for largemouth bass at Legg Lake, and there have been reports of bass into the 10-pound range.

These aggressive predators feed on smaller fish and really almost anything else they can get into their wide mouths.

In the cooler months, the largest bass will even swallow hatchery rainbow trout whole.

One tactic to try to catch a real trophy bass is to tie on a large-sized swimbait made to look like a rainbow trout. Retrieve it a little erratically to imitate a wounded trout that a huge largemouth would see as an easy meal.

Other typical bass fishing methods include using various types of lures, including crankbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits and all manner of soft plastic worms and creatures.

The best fishing spots at Legg Lake, especially if you’re looking for bass and panfish, are around structures and shade such as overhanging trees or submerged branches. The islands and lesser-traversed main shorelines have more of this cover.

Some sources report smallmouth bass in these lakes, but even if they are currently part of the fish population, largemouths are the dominant bass.

Catfish Fishing

Catfish are most likely to be stocked in the spring or fall and possibly the summer, usually when the water is a bit warm for trout.

Stocked catfish also are easy to catch, and bait fishing is the favorite catfishing tactic.

Catfish aren’t known to be picky. Worms and nightcrawlers will get the job done but also will tend to catch a variety of other gamefish.

If you really want to focus on catching catfish, cut-up fish and pieces of shrimp or prawns are excellent baits you can buy at the supermarket. Oily fish like mackerel is especially effective.

Prepared catfish baits also will get the job done, but you don’t really need to work that hard. Heck, a piece of hot dog will usually do as well.

Fish for catfish on the bottom. Try an area for a bit of time before moving on, say about an hour, because your scented bait will bring them in over time. If you’re still not catching fish, try another part of the lake.

Bluegill and Panfish Fishing

Bluegills at times are so abundant here that people will throw stale bread to them along with the ducks. Especially in the warmer weather, bluegill are often your best bet for action.

As mentioned above, Legg Lake is a great place to introduce the kids to fishing, and bluegill are a big reason for that. They can be caught all year in this climate, with the fastest action likely in spring, summer and early fall.

Bluegill are easy to catch with small hooks baited with worms, meal worms, crickets and other baits. Suspending those baits under a bobber to cast near weeds or other shoreline structures is an almost sure way to catch these fish when they are active.

Bluegills may be on the small side, but they are impressively good fighters and fun to catch for their size.

Getting kids hooked on fishing is some of the best times spent outdoors. There is something special about getting that one photo of them with their first fish and this lake will provide that opportunity.

For more of a challenge, try fishing with small lures or artificial flies or poppers.

So, the next time the kids say “I’m bored,” remember that there is a great year-round fishing hole not too far away.

Crappie are another panfish you might catch at Legg Lakes. If you find these schooling fish, mealworms and other natural baits that catch bluegill often will do the trick for crappie as well.

But crappie are particularly fond of eating minnows, and fishing lures that resemble inch-long fish is a top crappie-catching technique. The most common of these is the crappie jig, fished below a bobber or dangled around cover.

Small crankbaits, spinners and other lures that appear to be a minnow swimming by also will catch crappies.

Other Fishing

Common carp are a dark-gray relative of your aquarium goldfish. Don’t let that image fool you, because these fish are powerful fighters that can wreck your kid’s Frozen fishing rod.

If fishing for them deliberately, gear up with larger line and tackle and try baits such as dough balls or canned corn.

Some sources also cite tilapia being caught in the lakes.

Planning Your Trip

The Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is a large park of nearly 1,500 acres and plenty to do, from operating model boats on the lakes to riding your bikes around the many paths to playing sports at its varied facilities. And, of course, you’ll want to go fishing.

How to Get to Legg Lake

It’s located in South El Monte, just 15 minutes east of L.A. in Los Angeles County. Take the Santa Anita exit south off the Pomona Freeway to reach the part of Whittier Narrows with the three lakes.

Access to Great Fishing

Once at the park, you’ll find a mix of open spots and overgrowth near the pathways. The lakes also are dotted with overgrown islands, often within casting range of the popular fishing spots.

The shallow lakes also can be quite weedy with cattails and bullrush. However, these are spots where fish hold, so casting along the edges and openings along the weedy shorelines and islands can be effective.

Take advantage of the park’s paths by bringing a bike or e-bike to easily reach fishing spots on the three lakes.

Legg Lake Fishing Rules

You’ll need a California state fishing license to legally fish at the park’s lakes. State fishing rules apply.

Legg Lake Fishing Hours

At last check, the park opened daily at 6 a.m. From March through October, the park closes at 8 p.m. From November through February, the park closes at 6 p.m.

There is a modest vehicle entry fee, at least on weekends and holidays.

Check the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area website for updates, park rules and other information.

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