Where to fish in Southern California: Jenks Lake


Want a great place to catch fish near Los Angeles and Orange County? Try Jenks Lake in the San Gorgonio National Forest. Located off Highway 38 just past Angelus Oaks,  Jenks Lake is a quiet little lake that is a consistent producer of fish. Trout are planted from spring through early summer. Loaded with bluegill and small bass, families can catch fish all year-long and enjoy a beautiful day at the lake. There is a fishing pier for everyone to enjoy.  Less than 30 minutes from Big Bear, you can avoid the crowds there and take a short trip to Jenks Lake. Better yet, combine a camping trip to Barton Flats, San Gorgonio or South Fork campgrounds.

The lake was built in the 1870’s by Captain Lorin Shaw Jenks when he diverted water from the Santa Ana River into a man-made pond to raise trout. He sold his trout to the hungry loggers and miners who worked in the area.  The lake changed hands over the years but is now for fishing and day use only. No swimming.


Fishing for trout is best in early spring before the  lake weeds get thick. Sliding sinker Carolina rigged with an 18 inch leader baited with Powerbait or Micetails. I always like to put a little Bite-On garlic scent on mine. Casting Panther Martin or Mepps spinners will work well especially after a stocking. After the weeds get too thick you may have to go out in a float tube or kayak. These are my favorite ways to fish in lakes or even saltwater bays. Simply attach a #10 hook 18″ behind a splitshot and bait with Powerbait, Micetail, salmon egg or nightcrawler. No motors are allowed on the lake.

Bluegill and Bass

The small bass and bluegill have made a great comeback now that the drought is over. They can be seen from the shoreline from all over the lake. Small mini-jigs and silver spoons can often trigger a bite but by mid summer these fish have seen it all. Worms are what they want. Often when slow trolling a worm behind my float tube the bass or bluegill will hit my hook instead of a trout. During the summer months a small bobber, #10 hook and a half-inch piece of worm will keep the kids busy catching bluegill all day. Please release these fish back as they are not stocked and must reproduce to maintain numbers. The bass must be at least 12″.


There are a couple of really nice campgrounds near Jenks Lake, the closest of which is Barton Flats which has a hiking trail leading right to the lake.  The San Gorgonio campground is very close as well. Both are very nice spots to camp with a paved pad, fire pit when allowed, picnic table and convenient restrooms. If you are able to go midweek there are always plenty of spots even in the summer. Weekends get more crowded but usually able to get in. These are great campgrounds to get a big group together at. Try to get spots right next to each other. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov.

Cabins can be rented at nearby Angelus Oaks Lodge at www.lodgeatangelusoaks.com


Nearby Activities

Although there is not a lot around Jenks Lake there is a great restaurant called The Oaks Restaurant. The food is great and you can get your camping and fishing supplies there.  An Adventure Pass is required in all National Forests and is $5.00 per day, per vehicle.  An annual pass is available for $30. 00. Check with the Barton Flats Ranger Station or fill out the form and leave it in the box at lake. It is cash only at the lake.

The South Fork of the Santa Ana River can be fished from up Highway 38 near South Fork Campground or accessed off Seven Oaks Rd.  It is stocked during the spring and early summer and this is a rare chance to fish streams in Southern California. Worms, Powerbait and mini-jigs work best in this small stream. Look for deeper pools near fallen logs or rock dams. No casting is really possible due to all the brush. Just use a small split-shot 6 inches from bait and toss underhanded into pools. It is a beautiful way to spend a day.


Getting there

Jenks Lake is accessed via Highway 38 either going up the mountain or coming down from Big Bear. Look for Jenks Lake Road and follow for a mile or so. Look for the sign indicating the turnoff.  There is a large parking lot . It is a short walk down to the lake from there. So make your plans to enjoy a great day or days in the local mountains.

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“Going to the mountains is going home” ~ John Muir

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