The Lowdown: This is the most comprehensive guide to fishing at Puddingstone Lake. We tell you when, where and how to catch trout, catfish, bass, crappie and other fish at this reservoir. If you have specific fishing interests or questions, be sure to take advantage of the table of contents below the introduction, so you can jump straight into the information you want.
Puddingstone Lake is a quick drive for millions of people in Southern California, yet for a few months each year it offers some of the same types of trout fishing you’d expect from far-away Northern California.
The lake, also known as Puddingstone Reservoir, is within the excellent Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, which brings visitors to this San Dimas oasis for a wide variety of attractions, including fishing.
For a quick escape from the everyday hustle and bustle of life around Los Angeles, break out the light spin tackle or even a fly rod for your shot at rainbow trout, which are stocked at Puddingstone each winter.
The fishing doesn’t end when the weather gets too hot for trout, as Puddingstone Lake also can have fair to good fishing for a range of gamefish, including catfish, largemouth bass and crappie.
The reservoir is nestled just south of the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County.
Puddingstone Lake (also occasionally called Pudding Stone, or by nicknames ranging from the Puddle, the Pudd, the Stone, or “Puddleduck” for fun) offers more than just fishing close to home. It may be a suburban lake, but the backdrop of the mountains is an incredible sight.
As a result of the reservoir’s location and the large county park around it, locals and even some vacationers flock here. Weekends are the most congested, especially in warmer weather.
However, with 250 acres at full pool, there is ample room for everyone to spread out, especially from fall through spring when the fishing is better than the water skiing.
It might seem unfathomable that a lake in the most densely populated region of Southern California would have a robust rainbow trout fishery.
But for a part of the year, there is a decent trout opportunity here without traveling far into the mountains.
When to Catch Trout
In this climate, though, trout fishing is a decidedly seasonal pursuit, and trout are only stocked when the waters are cool enough.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife typically stocks trout at Puddingstone Reservoir (Bonelli Park) a handful of times each year, often beginning in about November and December.
Trout stocking may continue at times through winter and possibly into early spring, depending on the availability of hatchery trout and the water conditions at Puddingstone.
Most trout stocked here are pan-sized, but there are reports of larger trout being caught.
For the most recent stocking information, use the resource links at the bottom of this article.
How to Catch Trout
The most common way to catch freshly stocked trout, especially from shore, is by still-fishing with bait. Nightcrawlers, salmon eggs and artificial baits such as PowerBait are all popular because they work.
For more active angling, try casting spinners or spoons. If you have a boat, trolling with small lures, bait or a combination of the two can be very effective for trout.
Even fly anglers can get their fix without needing to escape to a faraway mountain stream, as hatchery trout still have the instinct to feed on flying and swimming insects.
In the cool weather of winter, fishing near the surface can be effective with bait or artificial flies and lures. They should be within casting range for bank fishing.
Boaters will be able to reach more trout by fishing deep with bait or trolling lures closer to the bottom.
Where to Catch Trout
One of the most popular bank fishing areas on Puddingstone Lake is the East Shore Fishing Area. The depth drops at a reasonable rate at that time.
Also, bank anglers might walk out to the points to get a bit closer to deeper water, especially at the west end of the lake off the Bonelli Park Trail, near the Sailboat Cove parking area and smaller spots near Raging Waters Drive.
Experiment with longer and shorter casts when shore fishing until you get bites, and then focus on that area.
If conditions allow, trout will naturally feed at the surface if there is food. You might see them breaking the surface to snatch a floating insect or chase a minnow.
If you can tell which direction trout are heading while hunting for food, try casting your offering out ahead of them.
Trout need colder water than most Southern California game fish, so they will be quick to retreat to deeper areas of the lake as the weather warms.
At full pool, Puddingstone Lake is over 80 deep in a small area near the dam. Generally speaking, much of the western side has the reservoir’s deepest water, where a fair bit of the reservoir is from 40 feet to over 60 feet deep.
Boaters plying the lake’s deepest waters can troll from the area off the dam and head down the west bank about 500 to 1,000 feet off the points, until they are about even with the East Shore Fishing Area, then loop back up the way they came.
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Learn how to catch more trout with our favorite fishing techniques and tips, including top baits and lures.
When you have the tactics down, be sure to plan a trip to one of the best trout fishing lakes in California.
Lake Puddingstone features a channel catfish fishery that can range from fair to occasionally excellent.
Channel cats are not only strong fighters but also make great eating.
When focusing on catfish, think down. These bottom dwellers will be scouring the lake floor, looking for their next meal.
At its essence, the simplest catfish tackle is a bait hook with enough weight to cast and sink to the bottom, though there are fishing techniques and baits that will improve your odds of catching catfish.
Catfish prefer baits with strong scents. Chicken livers, cut fish such as mackerel, and prepared stink baits are all effective. Catfish also love worms, but you’re likely also to attract other bait-stealing species.
The key is patience. It may take a bit for the catfish to track the scent to your baited hook, so let it soak a bit while keeping a sharp eye on the rod’s tip for signs of a bite.
Catfish can be caught at any time of the year and any hour of the day, but generally warmer weather and lower light conditions like early mornings and evenings produce the best results.
Try some of the same shore fishing areas we listed above for trout. Catfish also tend to patrol shallower flats at night, so you might do well in the shallower northeastern parts of the lake when the park first opens or near the end of the day.
Catch More Catfish
We have the answer to this question: Where are the best catfish fishing lakes and rivers in California?
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Bass fishermen looking for local fishing holes are in for a real treat at Puddingstone Lake. They don’t always have to travel a little north to Castaic Lake or a lot north to Clear Lake to catch a bucket mouth pushing near 10 pounds.
The lake is known to hold largemouth bass topping nine pounds.
Largemouths simply love structure. Look for bass around rocks, docks, fallen trees and weedy areas.
The type of structure fished will determine the kind of presentation.
Around weeds, try rigging up a soft plastic wacky worm or a creature bait and toss the lure in openings and along the edges, working them along the bottom. The same goes for fallen trees and rip rap.
Some boat anglers will troll for bass to cover lots of water. Try to work them near the bottom where most bass hold.
Crankbaits slowly dragged along the shore or over rocky bottoms produce explosive strikes that are sure to double over a rod.
Casting and retrieving all types of bass lures can be effective, and many anglers will try to mimic the natural forage such as smaller fish and crayfish.
In late fall through spring, when there are likely to be moderately-sized stocked trout swimming around, Puddingstone Lake’s largest bass may be keying on trout for easy meals.
Try a large trout-imitation swimbait or a good sized crankbait in rainbow trout patterns. The action likely won’t be quick when the water is cool, but you might catch the bass of a lifetime.
A lively whole nightcrawler fished along the bottom or under a float can also be very effective for largemouth bass and is likely to attract the attention of trout, catfish or just about any other fish that swims here.
However, we’d note that fish tend to swallow still-fished bait deeply, and many anglers release large bass, so consider trying an artificial lure if you intend to get a photo and let that lunker go.
The biggest bass often move into shallow water in the late winter into spring, when they spawn, so at that time of year try the small inlets like Sailboat Cove on the west side and the inlet stream on the far northeast end.
When hotter weather returns, largemouth bass tend to move into deeper water for more comfortable temperatures and lower light, although they will often hunt in shallower water at first and last light and sometimes on cloudy days.
If you’re fishing deeper, try fishing around ledges where the depth falls quickly. Some of the biggest drop-offs are on the west end of the lake as the depth plunges to 50 feet or more in fairly quick order.
There’s also a round hump well off-shore that rises quickly to between 20 and 30 feet depths from surrounding water up to 70 feet deep, producing a circle of nice drop-offs that bank anglers can’t reach.
If you have a boat with electronics, look for it to rise up on your screen roughly midway between the parking area at Sailboat Cove and the East Shore Fishing Area.
Once you hook a largemouth, be prepared and hold on because some of these lunkers will become airborne with dramatic leaps out of the water.
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Find out our picks for best bass fishing lakes in Southern California and then learn how to catch more bass with the most effective techniques.
While largemouth bass and rainbow trout are the most highly sought-after fish in Lake Puddingstone, don’t overlook crappie fishing.
The lake holds a significant population of crappie at times, although crappie numbers tend to run in boom and bust cycles. When it’s good, it can be very good. When it’s not, time to do something else and wait it out a few seasons.
Break out the crappie fishing favorite lures like jigs and light spinners and focus on areas where cover is fully submerged in the water.
Schools of crappie may hold along weed edges, sunken branches, docks and other structure.
There are docks in several spots around the lake as well as weedy coves. Try the structure around the Sailboat Cove area or the docks, coves and points near the dam and North Shore Beach.
In the late winter into spring, look for crappie to move into shallow water near cover to spawn. This can be the easiest time of the year to locate them.
After the spawn, and particularly in warm or cold weather, crappie usually move into deeper water. Find them near the end of docks off deeper submerged structures including branches, boulders and ledges.
Crappie are aggressive eaters and will strike jigs cast from the shore or boat and slowly reeled back or live minnows presented under a float.
Crappie also are schooling fish, so when you find one, you will likely encounter more in the same spot.
Look for crappie to move into shallow water near cover during the spring spawn. They will often hold deeper for much of the rest of the year but still will move up to feed on schools of small fish.
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You’ll likely find bluegill willing to bite in warmer months as well.
Bluegill also like structure such as weed beds and the shade of docks and are easy to catch with simple bait and lure presentations. They are often a great option to keep kids interested in fishing, because they are willing biters and good fighters for their size.
Bluegill are often in quite shallow water during the warm months, especially where there also is cover. However, sometimes you’ll find mostly small bluegills in close to the bank while the larger sunfish are a bit deeper but in the same types of areas.
Besides the occasional monster catfish, the biggest fish you are reasonably likely to catch at Puddingstone Lake are its common carp, which somewhat commonly can top 10 pounds and fight like a freshwater tarpon.
Just don’t expect them to taste as good as trout or catfish! (See below for our discussion about eating the fish you catch.)
Planning Your Trip
Puddingstone Reservoir is in San Dimas roughly a half hour’s drive east of downtown Los Angeles just off the San Bernardino Freeway ( U.S. 10). Coming from the other direction, Puddingstone is about 20 minutes west of Ontario.
The lake is the centerpiece of Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, which offers a variety of amenities in three square miles.
When to Visit
Note that Puddingstone Lake is extremely popular with water skiers and other power boaters, especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day when the water temperature peaks.
If you fish during the summer, it might be wise to beat the early birds to the worms and get to the lake at sunup and fish until the powerboats get rocking at about 10 a.m.
Fishing is better when the water is a bit cooler anyway, so plan to target bass and catfish in the spring and fall and go after trout in the winter, once the stocking begins for the year.
While many anglers here many are day-trippers, the opportunity exists to plan an extended stay at a lakeside campground in a tent or RV. You don’t have to be in a rush back home when you can stay a while.
Bonelli Park Hours
The hours that Puddingstone Lake is open for fishing depends on the season, as follows:
- March 1-October 31: Open 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- November 1-February 28: Open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Puddingstone Lake Fees
How much will it cost you to fish for the day at Puddingstone Lake?
The answer will depend on whether you come in a vehicle (or even an RV), whether you’ll launch a boat, and what other activities you might do. We’ll run through some common costs.
At last check, the daily vehicle entrance fee was $12.
Launch fees are $12 for a daily motorized boat permit and $9 for a daily non-motorized boat permit.
Other fees apply to different situations, including boat launching discussed below. Check the Los Angeles County’s Bonelli Park website for details, including information about annual passes for frequent visitors.
You also need the appropriate state-issued fishing license to fish at Puddingstone Lake. CDFW has annual and day license options available, with some discounts for some people, so check the resource link at the bottom of this article for the current information.
The shoreline offers plenty of space to spread out; however, if you’re equipped with a boat or other watercraft that fits the specifications of allowable watercraft, bring it along, whether for fishing or water sports.
Boat ramps are available in Bonelli Park. Expect to pay a boat inspection and launch fees, as discussed in the previous section and available at the county’s website linked above.
There are some rules designed to help both anglers and power-boaters enjoy the water, including certain times of day and locations for higher-speed watercraft and personal watercraft. See the park’s boating rules for details.
Lodging and Camping
The reservoir features a regional park with all of the amenities and activities that a person could ask for when visiting for the day or an extended stay at the campsite.
Bonelli Park has many recreational opportunities along the northern end of the lake.
It has two boat ramps, camping, bank access, hiking and bike trails, golf, a water park and more. Plenty of entertainment is available for the entire family.
Campers can go the old-fashioned route by pitching a tent or travel in luxury and pull up in an RV. It’s wise to book your spot well ahead of time because the lake is popular.
Can You Eat the Fish?
Can you eat the fish you catch at Puddingstone Lake (Bonelli Park)? The short answer is yes.
The more nuanced answer is that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has issued some consumption guidelines for bass, bluegill and carp, but they are fairly generous.
However, if you want to eat a lot of fish from the lake (more than one meal per week), check these guidelines before you cook up your catch.
There are no suggested limits to the amount of trout or catfish you should eat from Puddingstone Reservoir. They are considered safe to consume in any quantity.