Can you still go fishing during the Coronavirus outbreak?


Late this week, Governor Gavin Newsome issued a “stay-at-home” order for California residents in an effort to combat the spread of the Coronavirus as cases of the disease continue to rise. With so many people required to not be working and so virtually all students no longer in school, outdoor recreation – exercise – is actually encouraged by officials.

The order allows residents to leave their homes to buy essential products, walk dogs or exercise, but just seeks to restrict unnecessary interactions with other people. You know the term now and hear it a thousand times a day, “social distancing.”

Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, said plainly that “nobody is locked down. You can still take a walk — in fact, it’s encouraged.”

“You can still go to the grocery store, or bring food to loved ones. Just stay at least six feet away from anybody you don’t live with and be mindful of others’ vulnerabilities,” said Garcetti.

Who is better at social distancing than fishermen (or hikers or hunters or most outdoor users).

So “yes” is the answer to the question: Can I go fishing during this crisis?

The next question is what places are open to fishing?

While virtually all of the City and County park districts across Southern California have closed their offices and cancelled all organized events in their facilities, Los Angeles, Kern, and Inyo counties open-space parks and lakes remain open to the public for fishing.

This means popular fishing places like Buena Vista Lakes near Taft, all of the small lakes in Bakersfield – River Walk Park Lake, Hart Park Lake, Lake Truxton, Lake Ming, and Mill Creek Park remain open. The Kern River, Lake Isabella, and the entire California Aqueduct, also remain open to anglers. In the Palmdale-Lancaster, Quail Lake, Apollo Park Lake, Lake Palmdale (Fin & Feather Club’s private lake), and the aqueduct remain open.

Silverwood Lake, Castaic Lake, and Pyramid Lake all were still open (as of Saturday) and are expected to remain open. All state park and recreation areas have closed their campgrounds and group recreation areas, but the lakes remain open to anglers.

Sadly, all San Bernardino County Parks were closed this past week, meaning popular fishing waters like Glen Helen and Yucaipa regional parks are not available. The popular, privately-run Santa Ana River Lakes in Orange County also closed this past week, but the crowds this lake draws makes that closure understandable.

For anglers who don’t fish artificial lures, getting bait might be a problem some places. While the major sporting goods store chains are all closed – Turner’s, Big 5, etc. – a number of smaller local bait dealers are still servicing customers. Amaysing Fishing in the Palmdale-Lancaster area is still open (with more restricted hours) and this shop has a 24-hour bait delivery service, bringing the bait to you. Bob’s Bait Bucket in Bakersfield is also still open for bait and tackle sales.

Anglers can also scrounge up their own baits. It seems like digging your own worms is a lost art. While most of the natural worms are small, much smaller than nightcrawlers, the rainy weather the past month has brought more worms to the surface and made it easy to find where they are burrowing. Look for casting piles (little piles of BB-sized dirt balls), or simply dig in moist soil. Lawns generally hold a lot of worms in the roots of the grass, but I don’t want to get a bunch of kids in trouble for spading up the family lawn getting ready for a fishing trip, so kids should leave lawn collecting to dad.

Any other grubs you might find digging for worms (which are usually beetle larvae) also make good baits, especially for bluegill or redear.

If you decide to fish one of the small streams in our local national forests for trout, home-dug worms make good baits for them, too (where there aren’t restrictions on using artificials-only). The best baits for stream trout, however, are the stonefly nymphs that live on the underside of rocks in the stream. These aquatic insects are a trout’s favorite food because they provide a big meal for their effort.

Fishermen are by nature social distancers. So fishing is a healthy alternative to staying at home in stuffy air and worrying about Covid-19.


Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.

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