Winter Fishing at Big Bear Lake

Just because the leaves change colors, and the lake begins freezing doesn't mean the fishing season has paused; it's just becoming a new ball game. Here is a guide on where to fish, what you'll catch, and how to adjust your gear and wardrobe to have a successful fishing trip at Big Bear Lake.

BIG BEAR— Winter doesn’t have to mean that the fishing season is postponed—it’s just going to be different. By making a few adjustments to your strategy and gear, you’ve entered into a whole new fishing season. Fishing in Big Bear is year-round as long as the lake hasn’t completely frozen over.


Big Bear is a top-rated tourist destination and brings in a lot of visitors during the winter months for skiing, snowboarding, and cozy cabin stays. But Big Bear is also a great fishing destination. So even though you don’t think of fishing when you think of winter, winter fishing in the mountains is a fun and scenic experience.


Big Bear Lake is the most recognized of all the lakes in Big Bear and is stocked with Rainbow trout, Panfish such as bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappie, Channel catfish, and small and largemouth bass. Remember that walking, sitting, or otherwise being on the lake ice is strictly forbidden and will result in a fine. 


“The lake usually freezes over sometime around Christmas or New Year’s,” said Scott Eberhard, a master guide for Cantrell Guide Service, in an email from Nov. 1. “That said, most of the winter, there are areas of the lake that will be ice-free. [During] many Winters, much of the lake will remain fishable (ice free) for most of the winter, and people may fish those areas from the shore.”


Because the weather temperatures drop so low, you’ll have the best luck with biting on days when the water temperature is above 40 degrees. This means you’ll have the most success towards the middle of the day when the temperatures are higher. It’s also smart to avoid fishing after several nights have hit below-freezing temperatures. Also, rain is a good sign for anglers. It stirs up the fish’s food allowing more potential for bites.


Anglers are most likely to catch trout. Big Bear Lake serves as a first-rate trout fishery habitat because its depths allow the fish to thrive, even in the summer heat, and they continue to look for food throughout the winter months. One of the best ways to track this healthy trout population is by downrigging deeper waters and trolling leadcore lines at three colors or more. The lake’s west end tends to see most of the action. Shore anglers fishing near the dam will have the most success with slip bobber setups with power bait or live bait at 15 to 18 feet.


Winter fishing also means adjusting your fishing gear. Water-resistant gear is your new best friend. Water-resistant parkas and coats are a must, as the resistance keeps you dry and helps keep you clean. Wear gloves, and when you’re looking for a pair, ensure you find a water-resistant pair but make sure they aren’t bulky. Specialty fishing gloves are thin enough to allow maximum dexterity— a must-have when handling your gear. Finally, make sure you use water-resistant boots to get traction along muddy or snowy shorelines of the lake.


The Big Bear Lake marina officially closed on Oct. 23 and won’t reopen until the Spring, so you’ll have to find a good spot on the shore to fish from. Anglers have a lot of success just off North Shore Drive and Hwy 18 near the dam.


“There is quite a bit of public access in many areas along the North shore and several areas where one can access the lake along the South shore,” said Eberhard. “The marinas typically begin operating the first week of April and continue to do so into November. The public launch ramps open April 1st and continue to operate through November 30th if you have your own boat.”


If you need supplies, bait, or information before you hit the lake, Big Bear Sporting Goods is the location for all things fishing. It was built around the 1930s and was first called the Birdie Hotel, a lodging location for anglers who made the trip to the lake.


To learn more about fishing in Big Bear Lake, including where to catch certain species, rules and regulations, and weather updates, visit


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