Silverwood Lake Fishing: How to Catch Stripers and More

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Silverwood Lake is a recreational hot spot in Southern California, especially if you have in mind fishing for stripers, trout and largemouth bass.

It’s also high enough up in the San Bernardino Mountains yet close enough to the big city to make for a scenic getaway for a day or maybe longer.

Of course, a place like this isn’t a secret, so Silverwood Lake certainly can get busy. It’s wise to plan ahead, especially if you’re staying overnight.

The fish here can get big, including into potential record territory for striped bass, and the fishing for trout, largemouth bass and a variety of other fish can get into epic territory at times.

Yet, the fishing here at times also can be fairly challenging, so you have to know where and when to go. We’ll get you off to a good start toward catching fish at Silverwood Lake.

Depending on the time of year, you can find active largemouth bass, catfish, striped bass, crappie and trout waiting for your bait to hit the water. 

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area and adjacent San Bernardino National Forest, and water sports enthusiasts are everywhere during the warmer months.

Access to the lake can require some hiking if targeting hot spots from shore. There are some popular areas near the entrance, though they fill up fast.

There are some more spectacular fishing spots and amazing views around Silverwood Lake if you’re up for a hike.

This fairly large reservoir is fed by the California aqueduct system (the highest reservoir in the state water project) and a few mountain streams in the drainage of the West Fork Mojave River.

With those combined water sources, it can be surprisingly cool, which makes it perfect on a hot summer day.

Striped Bass Fishing

Stripers can get big at Lake Silverwood. Think wall-hanging, potentially record-sized fish topping 30 pounds and once in a great while 40 pounds.

There are often good numbers of them in the lake, with plenty of 2- to 5-pounders as well as the more elusive monster striped bass.

One reason there are some really big stripers at Silverwood Lake is that it’s planted with larger numbers of trout in the fall and spring months.

Those stocking truck visits might as well be the ringing of the dinner bell for big stripers. These big predatory fish can be found closer to shore in the days after a stocking event. 

Fall can be a particularly good time to go after Silverwood’s striped bass.

Some of the better natural baits here are anchovies, sardines and nightcrawlers, especially if you like fishing at anchor. 

If trolling is your thing, try lures that resemble trout and other forage fish such as shad. Trolling bait is another option.

If using a boat, try Twin Cove and the quarry area. Search around the main channel on the points.

They may be suspended in 30-40 feet of water or move into shallower water to hunt.

Boaters also work their lures or baits around the dam, especially around the intake and outake areas that can attract foraging stripers.

Bank anglers can sometimes score stripers from the docks fishing with bait. There is a modest feed.

Shore anglers also can do well walking into the Miller Canyon and Cleghorn areas, or potentially other spots with less pressure, especially around sunset can bring good striper action.

Try casting with lures that look like trout, such as rubber swimbaits and hardbody crankbaits to seek out stripers that are hunting for trout or forage. You may do well with waders to get yourself and your lures out a bit farther.

A local favorite striper lure (and also good for trophy-sized largemouths and other big predatory fish) is the Z-Plug, developed by Gregg Silks, who has guided locally including on Silverwood Lake for many years.

Silverwood Lake is in our roundup of best striped bass fishing spots in California.

Trout Fishing

Rainbow trout are planted at Lake Silverwood several times per year during the cool months.

The trucks drop them off at the boat ramp, and they tend to hang around the docks for a few days or longer afterward, so stick to that southern part of the lake if targeting them soon after a planting.

In cooler weather, trout may tend to stay in shallower water at Silverwood Lake, in part to feed but also perhaps to avoid the striped bass hunting them, so you may come for trout but decide to switch over to stripers.

You can literally catch them off the beach by the docks in mere feet of water in the winter. 

Throughout the winter and spring, they move between deep and shallow waters, though primarily in an attempt to avoid being eaten by bass.

If they make it through the first season, they will be big enough to hold their own out in the deeper waters. That’s where you’ll find the bigger ‘bows.

The lake record is just over 12 pounds, so the bigger fish are definitely in there. 

From a boat, you can find them suspended in deeper waters throughout the lake, especially in the summertime when they leave the warming surface and shallows. The maximum depth is over 170 feet in the large northern part of the lake.

Jigging and trolling work well, as do the old standbys like PowerBait and worms. Casting spinners such as Rooster Tails is also a go-to for trout.

Bigger trout will cruise deeper water for much of the year.

However, it’s not particularly common to catch big ‘bows (or trout in any quantity) in the hot summer months, when they are particularly deep. Stick to the cooler seasons for your best bet.

Silverwood Lake has been stocked with brown trout at times, including several years back when the supply of hatchery rainbow trout crashed in Southern California.

Some sources also suggest that at least a few brown trout come into through tributaries, although Miller Canyon Creek is probably an easier bet for trout stocked there.

Learn more easy techniques and tips for trout fishing.

Largemouth Bass Fishing

Silverwood Lake is pretty well known for stripers and trout, but what about the largemouth cruising around in there? How do they stack up, you ask?

How about a lake record of 17 pounds?

There are several promising spots to target largemouth at Silverwood Lake, though fishing in some will be better than others.

If you have a kayak or other non-motorized boat, try out the Cleghorn and Miller Canyon creek areas.

These spots can be excellent for small human-powered watercraft, and you have the added bonus of not dealing with the power boaters out in the open water areas where faster speeds are the rule.

Chamise Cove is an excellent place to try. Typical largemouth bass techniques work well here. Chamise and the Cleghorn area also are good for channel cats. Maybe try for both while you’re in there. 

The marina dock can be a good spot to fish for bass, especially early in the morning before the pleasure boaters get there.

If you’re in a boat, work the edges of the docks before leaving the area, and you may find a few to get your day started.

Your best bets at Silverwood Lake are early morning and early evening. Chuck some top waters, crankbaits, and plastics in the morning for the best action.

The typical crankbaits are known to catch a few of the larger rainbows out there as well, so you might have a few come to the net.

Try shallow coves during around the spring spawn, which often gets started near the end of March, but let go any large fish to complete their spawning.

Bass will move into deeper water at other times of the year but will still come into shallower areas in low light to feed.

You may spot shad minnows dappling across the surface trying to escape feeding bass, which is a pretty good clue that you should throw a minnow-imitating lure that way.

When the water is cooler, like in the fall or in the late winter, bass feed more sluggishly so you should follow suit and fish slowly with finesse plastics including creature baits.

Pick up some more tips for catching largemouth bass.

Channel Catfish Fishing

Catfish are found throughout the lake, with the rockier areas at times delivering the most action. Coves can be excellent as well.

The lake record is around 15 pounds, which isn’t particularly big by California catfish standards.

That said, Silverwood Lake often has pretty good numbers of channel cats, often in the 2- to 5-pound range, which makes them ideal for eating.

One solid plan is to use cut baits and target the Cleghorn cove area.

Leading back out into the main lake from Cleghorn, keep to the shallower sections and target any coves you come across. 

The lake is known to have better catfish action at night, so plan accordingly. There are campgrounds available.

More: How to Catch Catfish.

Other Types of Fishing

Bluegill are around and are always ready to snap up a mealworm or a cricket or other favorite sunfish tactic, especially in the warm summer months.

Typical places for bluegill and potentially redear sunfish at Silverwood Lake are around the docks and in the rocky areas in the coves around the lake. Search out any submerged weeds or other structures as well, as these fish are very cover-oriented. 

The marina is always going to be at least moderately productive. Use nightcrawler pieces, and you might catch bluegill or trout.

Black crappie fishing can be very hit or miss at Silverwood Lake, though sometimes anglers come out with an impressive stringer of slabs.

Crappie can be located around the edges of drop-offs in and near the coves and will move into shallow water in April and May for the spawn, when they are easiest to locate.

Standard crappie jigs will catch them, as will other crappie fishing techniques. The real trick is finding them on the lake. Once you do, you’ll potentially be in for pretty good action.

The lake holds a pretty decent common carp population, so if you want to target a few, you should have good luck in the shallower sections.

Use a heavier action rod with at least a 15-pound test for carp, which can be big and strong.

Planning Your Trip

Silverwood Lake (sometimes known as Lake Silverwood) is close to several cities, so it gets heavy usage during warm weather. Plan ahead for any lodging and camping opportunities around the San Bernardino National Forest. 

The lake is located about 25 miles north of San Bernardino and 30 miles south of Victorville, and a couple hours driving east out of Los Angeles into San Bernardino County, where the cool mountains around the lake feel like another world.

There are several recreational options around, so bring the family and they shouldn’t have any problems finding something fun to do.

The lake is set in a beautiful wooded landscape that is part of the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area, so there are campgrounds and well-maintained parking lots, beaches and trails.

There are plenty of restrooms around, which isn’t always the case at a lake.

There are two swimming beaches and over 13 miles of paved hiking and biking trails, and you can also get onto the Pacific Crest Trail from here.

Wildlife watching opportunities may include bald eagles and great blue herons.

Try out some paddle boarding when you’re not fishing, or just relax at the camp and enjoy the outdoors near but not too near the city.

Boat and Shore Access

The marina has a boat launch that handles all boats and personal watercraft, although know that your own watercraft will need to be inspected for quagga mussels and zebra mussels.

You can rent boats and equipment there and pick up any tackle and bait you may need. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Silverwood Lake veterans know that the afternoon can get pretty windy here, so getting started as early as allowed will give you more fishing time and a better bite.

Also, during the summer, that will help avoid the power-boaters. Another way to avoid them is to fish the cove areas where there are restricted speed limits, instead of the larger part of the lake.

There is a maximum boat limit here, so making launching reservations is wise. There also are daytime boating hours so make sure you familiarize yourself with the current rules.

Shore access is available, though it does require a hike in several places.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the lake map to transport gear from your car to the water as easily as possible.

It’s easy to take the wrong trails and end up walking an extra mile to get to the lake. 

Several picnic areas are spread throughout the recreational area, with some having boat-in access only.

Where to Stay

Silverwood has plenty to keep your family busy, so if you want to stay for an extended vacation, check out the campgrounds available.

Mesa Campground offers over 100 sites that vary from single tent units to full hookup RV sites. There are some walk-in/bike-in sites available as well. 

Hotels and restaurants are around, though you’ll need to travel a bit. The lake is somewhat close to surrounding cities, but it is just far enough for it to be a little inconvenient just to run back and forth.

Can I Eat Fish Caught at Silverwood Lake?

You definitely can eat the trout you catch at Silverwood.

However, note that state officials have issued health advisories cautioning some groups of people to reduce or avoid consumption for several of the fish species in the lake, especially striped bass.

The trout, which are stocked and tend to accumulate fewer toxins, are a safe choice for everyone.

For more details on consumption guidelines, see the fish advisory listing and look for Silverwood Lake.