Pyramid Lake Fishing: Stripers & More Near L.A.

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Pyramid Lake offers excellent fishing a short drive in the greater Los Angeles area.

The lake is approximately 1,300 acres and has more than 20 miles of shoreline to explore. There is plenty of outdoors recreation at Pyramid, from fishing to jet skiing. 

The deepest spots on the lake are around 280 feet at its maximum water level. That gives a wide variety of fish plenty of habitat to call home.

Shore anglers are in luck due to the quick change in depth here. Just offshore in most areas, you’ll find a drop from 10 to 50 feet in most areas. 

Let’s be honest: Being in Los Angeles County, naturally Pyramid Lake is very popular with recreational users wanting to hit the cool water, so be ready to deal with the powerboats and jet skis.

The weekends in the summer can reach the allowed boat limit early, so prepare for that and plan to either be there super early or go out on a weekday.

There are speed limits for recreational boats in the canyon arms, meaning these areas are popular with paddleboarders and kayakers. There also are excellent fishing opportunities in the arms, so plan to spend some time in them.

Striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish and crappie are cruising throughout the lake all year long.

On top of that, hatchery trout are typically planted in the fall through late spring. They provide a great angling experience, along with fantastic forage for the biggest stripers and bass.   

Check out the current regulations before heading out, and be prepared for some fantastic fishing.

Striped Bass Fishing

Pyramid Lake striped bass fishing ranges from good to epic.

There are solid numbers of keeper-sized stripers in the lake, thanks to the water constantly pumped in via the Central Valley Project. There are enough fish in the 15- to 20-pound range caught often enough to keep things interesting, with a rarer monster possible here and there.

Use your electronics to locate striped bass if they’re suspended.

The area around the dam can be spectacular. Look for other boats to be stacked up, and you’ll find fish suspended in the area.

Be sure to obey fishing etiquette rules and don’t get too close to anyone’s boat. There are plenty of stripers in the water, so don’t be greedy. 

Cut baits like sardine or anchovy work great.

Target the stripers in anything from 20 to 60 feet of water during cooler months. They hang out above areas of deep structure. Near the dam and around the island are excellent spots to start.

Another tactic is to target the areas off the points around the lake. There is some amazing structure in these areas that hold good-sized stripers. They will move up from deeper water to chase the baitfish.

Throughout the summer, stripers start to move to the surface, usually chasing bait. If you’re lucky enough to find one, a feeding frenzy can deliver a lot of fish in just a few minutes.

Go with the lightest line you can; a 6- to 8-pound test should be enough. The fish in Pyramid Lake spook easily, so a thinner line is crucial.

More: We are confident in the striper fishing here, so we’ve included Pyramid Lake among the best striped bass fishing lakes and rivers in California. Learn how to catch more of them with our complete guide to freshwater striper fishing.

Bass Fishing

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass live in Pyramid Lake.

Big bass are always a top attraction at any lake, and the only thing that outperforms the black bass fishing during the summer on this reservoir is the stellar striper fishing.

Smallies are spread throughout the lake, while largemouth bass like to hold in the heavier weed and brush structure around the shore.

Largemouth Bass 

Largemouth bass are restocked by the marina, so it seems you’ll always be able to find them around there.

The boat docks are also great for bass. If you’re fishing from shore, the Marina Arm is the most accessible.

You actually can fish most of the lake from shore, though over half of it takes a bit of exertion to get to.

Whether by boat or shore, don’t miss the Priest area and the little cove of Glory Hole. They are good-to-great bass spots.

When the water warms in the spring, check out the Lost Mine area and the spots west of Yellow Bar in the Piru Arm. Piru Creek enters the lake just past Tin Cup Cove, which also can be good for largies.

Nugget Point is a must-fish spot during the summer, while Spanish Point has good areas to target from spring through the fall.

Pyramid Lake’s largemouth can’t seem to resist Carolina Rigs, Ned Rigs, and other soft plastic setups.

That said, opportunities also present themselves for the topwater enthusiast, though after early mornings, the water is too active for a topwater approach in most areas.

If a topwater bite presents itself, toss out a Ghost Shad Splash-it popper and bring it in like it’s being chased by the bad guy from a slasher flick.

Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind that most people in slasher flicks can’t seem to avoid tripping and falling, so try a fast-then-stop retrieve. It should work well.

Looking for the very best passing around, including at neighboring Castaic Lake? Read through our Best Largemouth Bass Fishing in Southern California.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallies are everywhere in the deeper rocks around the shore. Boats will do great at Chumash Island, while bank anglers can find them all along the northeast side.

If you’re in Southern California and you want to catch smallmouth bass close to home, it’s hard to beat Pyramid Lake.

It’s among the best smallmouth bass fishing lakes and rivers in California, and certainly one of the most reliable ones in the southern part of the state.

Cast a finesse rig at a parallel angle to the shore and use a slow, twitching retrieve.

There are a lot of smaller bass in there, so if numbers are what you search for, this is the place. Bass of good size require a boat, for the most part.

During cooler weather, search in the 20- to 40-foot range. You’ll have good luck with diving crankbaits and worms. Senkos work, as do Roboworms in Oxblood with red flake.

Smallies and their cousins, the largemouth, are easily targetable from shore for bank anglers. Keep at them, and you’ll figure them out in no time.

Catch More Bass

Learn even more secrets to great bassing with our Bass Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Rainbow Trout Fishing

Do you want to catch rainbow trout from shore? This is the place.

Any time between late October through May will find decent numbers of ‘bows in 10 to 20 feet of water just offshore. Fish near the marina, and you’ll probably do great.

From shore toss mice tails and Rooster Tails in rainbow patterns. You’re going to catch them pretty fast, so be ready. 

Boat fishing for trout is a fun way to spend some time waiting for the stripers to wake up. Trolling or tossing lures work well.

In the summertime, trout dive down to the 50- to 80-foot range and require a boat to reach, preferably one equipped with downriggers.

You may catch a few larger holdovers, but most of the year’s trout that avoid anglers tend to get gobbled up by the stripers and largemouth in there.

Tempted by Trout?

Check out our top pics in Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Lakes in California and then get prepared to catch them with Trout Fishing: How-To Techniques and Tips.

Other Game Fish

The variety of fish species you also might catch in good numbers at Pyramid Lake include channel catfish, bluegill and crappie.

Channel cats can reach good size across California and tend to bite best from evenings through early mornings, when they feed by tracking down food smells in dim light.

Fresh cut-baits and strongly scented baits including mackerel, shad and shrimp, chicken liver, nightcrawlers, and prepared baits will do the job.

Learn more catfish fishing tips, tricks and baits and also find the best catfish fishing lakes and rivers in California.

Look for bluegill and crappie around docks, brush, aquatic plants and other structures and use small baits and lures to catch them.

It can be a blast when you find them, and these are wonderful fish for new anglers who care more about success than trophies.

While we’re at it, let’s also point you in the direction of the best crappie fishing lakes in California.

Planning Your Trip

Overview of Pyramid Lake including its massive dam that created this popular fishing reservoir in the hills above Los Angeles.
Photo by Jeffrey Walters

Pyramid Lake is a short hour or two drive up the I-5 from much of Southern California.

It’s not far beyond Santa Clarita and Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park and straddles the boundary between the Angeles National Forest and Los Padres National Forest. From the other side, figure about an hour driving south through the Grapevine from Bakersfield.

While it isn’t as famous as its neighbor Castaic Lake, it still gets a lot of use. Be sure to get there early for the best chance of getting your boat out on the water. 

As with most California lakes, special regulations can be in effect at any given time, so check the current rules before heading to the water. It’s better to be prepared than get surprised once you arrive.

Boat and Shore Access

The Emigrant Landing Boat Launch is just off the freeway and also includes picnic sites and other day-use facilities at a U.S. Forest Service site.

While it’s busy, access to good fishing is easy launching from here, as there are plenty of places to target.

Be sure to hit the area around the island in the late fall-winter to catch stripers. The shoreline of the island is good for bass, so spend some time there as well.

Bank fishing is wide open on the east shore closest to I-5. You can access the western side, though it does require a strenuous hike to get anywhere. It’s worth it to get away from the crowds. 

One exit to the south from Emigrant Landing, the Vista Del Lago Visitor Center also offers boat and bank access, courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources.

Lodging and Camping

There are several campgrounds around the lake. Most are only accessible by boat, but there are also great spots you can drive into. They range from primitive camps to full RV hookups.

Los Alamos Campground just north of the reservoir is among the closest campgrounds and is quite popular.

Hotels and lodges are around in the neighboring towns, ranging from 1-4 stars.

The lake has a tackle shop at the marina that also provides the basics for camping. There are great beaches for the family, along with great hikes.

Be sure to plan your trip in advance. Everything books up fast during the busy seasons, and the last thing you’ll want is to arrive and not have anywhere to camp.

Pyramid Lake is worth the trip and will provide hours of great fishing and other recreational activities. Bring the family for a fantastic getaway.

Find More Fishing Spots in Los Angeles County