Southern CA Freshwater

Big Bear Lake's best trouting kept to very early and late

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff WriterPublished: Aug 09, 2017

Slow, particular presentations the key to hookups; cooler weather expected ahead with 13th annual TroutfesT on horizon, Sept. 9-10

BIG BEAR LAKE — Warm summer weather in the Big Bear region the past few weeks and 70-plus degree water is limiting the best trout fishing to the very early mornings and the evening hours, without a whole lot of frenetic catching currently going on during the daytime. With water temps checking in at 72 degrees at the west end of the lake near the dam and as high as 75 around Juniper Point, Big Bear's trout are hanging in a little deeper water and keeping their feeding windows a tad shorter, forcing anglers to adapt and adjust to the conditions to slide a few 'bows on their stringers.

littlemanatbigbearLITTLE MAN AT BIG BEAR — 3-year-old Austin Balzano was all smiles after popping this 16-inch rainbow with his grandpa Mike on July 30 — Austin was dunking garlic PowerBait from the north shore near the dam at Big Bear Lake.

For shoreline fishers, there are a few specific tactics that are getting the job done when the time is right.

“The best times are from about 4 to 8:30 a.m. near the Red House and Old Gray's Landing, and then again in the evenings from 6 to 10,” reported Steve Raphael at Big Bear Sporting Goods. “The morning bite's been best with dough baits and 'crawlers fished on a 3- to 4-foot leader with either 2- or 4-pound fluorocarbon. Another good bet is the slip bobber rig, a mainstay during the summer months on the lake. Look to the deeper waters west of the buoy line at depths of 12 to 25 feet.

“During the evening chew, fly-lining nightcrawlers within 10 to 20 feet of the bank near rocky outcroppings is bringing a few nice holdover 'bows to the net,” Raphael continued. “The key to the fly-line bite has been using 2-pound line with light split-shot wieghts from 1/32- to 1/8-ounce about 3 feet ahead of a number 6, 8 or 10 Owner Light Mosquito Hook. Another major key to getting bit is keeping your shadow off the water. With those fish closer to the bank later in the day, make sure to keep those long shadows off the water to avoid spooking ’em.”

The conditions are also dictating a shift in usual tactics for trollers as well. Raphael said that more boaters are keeping their flashers in the tackle bag for the time being and turning to drifting ’crawlers on slip bobber setups right “dead center” down the middle of the lake from the buoy line to Gilner Point in the 12- to 25-foot zone. The small stretch of water from Papoose Bay to the dam also produced some good-quality ’bows over the weekend on Metallic Pink Needlefish and drifted ’crawlers in the 18- to 22-foot range.

Aside from the trout scene, the warmer water is seemingly aiding the catfish bite at the lake. A handful of decent-sized blue and channel cats are being creeled by anglers soaking scent-enhanced mackerel and shrimp along with Whoop Ass Catfish Bait and Bloody Meat BaitPro Catfish Nuggets. Meanwhile, smaller 1- to 2-pound bullhead cats are being tricked by ’crawlers fished inside of 15 feet from the banks. A few panfish are also taking small jigs and the occasional live worm offering in the Papoose Bay area.

With temperatures in the 10-day forecast as of press time calling for highs in the 70s and night temps expected to be in the mid-40s to low 50s — along with a mild chance of scattered thunderstorms over the weekend — look for slighlty cooler conditions and more active rainbows in the coming weeks ahead.

A few weeks of even some slight relief from the recent heat could be just what the doctor ordered for anglers set to fish the 13th annual Big Bear Lake Troutfest, bumped up four weeks from last year's event and slated for Sept. 9 and 10. Bragging rights, Big Fish and Blind Bogey cash, troves of great prizes and a Grand Raffle Prize of a 16-foot Klamath boat / Suzuki motor package will all be up for grabs as the summer season starts to wind down. Entries are currently being accepted online at (click on the Events tab) or by calling tournament director Billy Egan at (949) 366-2048.

For updates on the bite or the current conditions at the lake, contact Big Bear Sporting Goods at (909) 866-3222.