San Dimas Reservoir Fishing Exploration Video

San Dimas Reservoir, in the Los Angeles National Forest, is in the hills above San Dimas, California. It's a fairly small reservoir, when compared to the nearby San Gabriel, Morris and Big Dalton reservoirs (only one of those is open for fishing, sadly). This region was hit pretty hard by the Williams Fire, several years back. I've heard the fire resulted in a lot of soot and other debris being deposited in San Dimas Reservoir, and that, along with recent draining and dredging, supposedly killed the most of the fishery that previously existed. Reports from local fishing websites described trout, bass, sunfish and catfish being caught at San Dimas Reservoir prior to that fire, but I hadn't seen any new reports in a long time. Still, the reservoir is listed as open for fishing online and that was enough for me to go check it out.(More on the legal status of fishing at this reservoir below).

I was able to shoot some footage while overlooking the reservoir and you can watch it on YouTube here. As you can see from the video, the lake is pretty far down a steep cliff from the main public road. The only paved path down to the lake is fenced off. Supposedly, this used to be popular way to access the lake and it used to be ok for the public to use it. You will also notice that there is not any signs forbidding fishing or hiking along the shore of the reservoir, it's just boating, swimming and wading that is prohibited.

Unfortunately, accessing the shore is not easy. If you don't want to scale the cliff from the road, you'll have to drive down the end of San Dimas Canyon road, park near the fire station and hike in from the north side of the reservoir, along the creek, not a short treck. There is also no maintained public access in this area, but there are some rough hiking trails that I spotted on this side of the reservoir.

Now, for the really interesting part. I did a LOT of calling around and inquiring about the actual status of fishingat San Dimas Reservoir. I initially spoke with the Angeles National Forest rangers; they told me the following:
1. They are not aware of any restrictions on hiking or fishing in that area, aside from the off-limits experimental forest at the far north end of San Dimas Canyon Road.
2. While the Angeles National Forest rangers oversee the area of San Dimas Reservoir, the actual reservoir falls under the operation of the Los Angeles Flood Control people.

Thus, I ended up contacting the previously-mentioned department. Annoyingly, they first told me:

"The reservoir is not open to the public. Additionally, the reservoir is not stocked with fish and is routinely drained on an annual basis. The side slopes between the reservoir and San Dimas Canyon Road are very steep and can be dangerous. Please note that there are two trail heads used by hikers on the easterly side of the San Dimas Canyon Road which lead away from the reservoir area and up into the easterly hills. Thank you for the inquiry."
However, after replying to their email asking for further information, I received the following:

"My apology for the confusion.  Los Angeles County Code indeed states that fishing is allowed at San Dimas Reservoir (unless signs are posted to indicate otherwise).  For the current status of San Dimas Reservoir, Department of Fish and Game has stopped stocking fish in the reservoir for at least the past three years due to our maintenance activities at the facility which require the draining of the reservoir.  In 2008 & 2009, accumulated sediment in the reservoir were removed.  Two maintenance projects at the dam followed which require continuous draining of the reservoir.  The first one has been completed and we anticipate the 2nd maintenance project to start by summer and finish by the end of this year. The hiking trails outside the reservoir area is under the jurisdiction of the US Forest Service."

If anyone is interested, I believe the actual county code they are referring to is "20.92.030 Fishing restrictions" [Updated link 2015, same 20.92.030 Municipal Regulation]
"A person shall not fish in the waters of any reservoir, debris basin or spreading grounds owned by or under the control of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, except that fishing will be permitted from the banks of Puddingstone Reservoir, San Dimas Reservoir, San Gabriel No. 1 Reservoir, and Cogswell Reservoir (unless such reservoirs are posted to the contrary by signs plainly visible from the banks thereof), and from boats on Puddingstone Reservoir, San Dimas Reservoir, Big Tujunga Reservoir, San Gabriel No. 1 Reservoir and Cogswell Reservoir by persons having valid boat permits under Section 20.92.020 of this chapter, all within the regularly designated fishing season as established by the California State Fish and Game Commission, or by other competent authority, and in compliance with the terms and conditions and during the hours specified in the boat permit hereinabove referred to. (Ord. 10280 § 1, 1971: Ord. 4700 § 3, 1946.)"

Finally, I found a pretty fascinating document showing the Los Angeles Public Works department request to do further maintenance on the dam and reservoir. The actual document is very large (be warned), but for those interested it contains a wealth of information on the fish species observed at this reservoir and below it, future plans for development and more. It's definitely worth looking through, even if you have just a passing interesting in San Dimas Reservoir. Here is the direct link to the .PDF for the whole project.

Now, there is a tiny creek (San Dimas Creek?) that supplies the reservoir. It does appear to have a few very small fish, but has very limited places to fish from and the water is quite fast.
Overall, San Dimas Reservoir looks like a very interesting and relatively secluded lake with very little fishing pressure. I'm still not clear about what fish may remain in this little lake, given the draining and development, but I would like to return sometime soon for further exploration of this mountain reservoir.

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April 10, 2012 at 8:45 PM delete

Sounds like the reservoir certainly has some fishing treasures in it. You definitely did good research on it!

April 17, 2012 at 7:01 AM delete

Thank you for doing the research. What I gather is that the water is nearly inaccessible, and that there are probably few if any fish because the water was drained last year and may be drained this year. Did I get it right? Is this a place we should give a few years to develop or is it worth fishing now. It is pretty, but smaller than I imagined.

April 17, 2012 at 12:31 PM delete

It looks like several small reservoirs we have here. My only advice, such as it may be, is that fish can be super resilient,(some more than others of course) and a try might not be out of the question. After saying that I should mention that a pal and I tried a sun up to sun down try once on a barren large pond, we just could not accept that there were no fish.


May 31, 2012 at 12:26 AM delete

... if anyone wants to go and check it out let me know, im down for an adventure. this spot is prolly 15-20 mins from where i live and id rather not go alone.

July 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM delete

Intresting i am planning to go in a week, i may take my float tube thanks pal.

April 24, 2016 at 9:20 PM delete

So it's 2016 anyone try to fish it yet and if they had luck I tried today 4/24/2016 not a bite but was there only a hour

December 7, 2017 at 7:16 AM delete

Hi I'm down to go hit me up bro


Be nice.