Get your rod and reel and some tortillas — it’s time to go fishing in the L.A. River

Fishing on the L.A. River

Weekend anglers along the L.A. River | Carol Sanchez


ATWATER VILLAGE — Fishing along the L.A. River is not ideal. Traffic on the 5 and 2 freeways roar nearby. Homeless encampments dot the channel. The cleanliness of the water and the safety of eating fish that swim in it is a concern. Despite these drawbacks, summer weekends find families, groups of friends and seasoned anglers at the river’s edge, and some say their numbers have been growing.

“It’s a chill way to spend a Sunday,” says Alex Ocampo, a 20 year-old Atwater Village resident who uses tortillas as bait. “I don’t have to travel too far and the fish … are pretty easy to catch. It’s a fun past time.”

Fishing in the river is free and legal from May 29 – September 17 in The L.A. River Recreation Zones in Elysian Valley and a section of the San Fernando Valley.

What kind of fish swim in the L.A. River?

A 2008 study conducted by The Friends of the L.A. River in the Glendale Narrows, that section of the river that stretches from Glendale on the north to Elysian Valley on the south, found everything from mosquito fish and tilapia to carp and largemouth bass.

“I can catch carp, bluegill and bass,” said Renee, a fly fisherman who did not want to provide his last name. “ I like the quietness and it’s very close by to me. It works out for me. I never eat the fish, however. I just catch and release. That seems to be what many people do.”

Bambi Black, who accompanied Renee on the river, enjoys see others fishing along the channel.

“It’s cool seeing the families here,” Black said. “ There have been a lot of people fishing here lately.”

Ocampo enjoys fishing — as well as some beer drinking– near the Acresite Street entrance of the river because it’s walking distance from his home. Ocampo even  enjoys the freeway noise despite what others say. It makes him feel at home.

About those tortillas

“I like using tortillas as my bait,” said O’Campo, who prefers to fish around 6 pm when the heat dies down. “The fish eat them up like crazy.” But you won’t find Ocampo eating his L.A. River catch. “It’ probably not the safest to eat.”

While many expressed concerns about eating the fish,  the 2008 Friends of Los Angeles River found that fish in the river were healthier and lower in mercury than that of fish found in the ocean.

Roberto Fonseca is a senior journalism major at Chico State University. Fonseca grew up in Atwater Village and attended Atwater Elementary, Irving Middle, Marshall and Sotomayor High schools before graduating in 2014.

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  1. Wow, to promote fishing in that water. They put out an alert a little while back about that water and how seriously polluted it is, so much so that they warned that if any of it even gets on you, wash it off quickly with soap and clean water. And yet, we are going to promote fishing in it!?

    Much of the water going through there is the sewage water from the Sepulveda sewage treatment plant and the other one at the river at Glendale/Atwater. The previous alert noted it was high in fecal matter and other serious contaminants and is quite dangerous — this was a general, ongoing alert, not about a momentary or temporary situation.

    Please, whatever you do, no matter what or how large a fish you might catch, do not take it home and eat it. There should be signs all along the riverfront warning about that, and warning about even letting the water get on your skin. Gee, the city risks serious liability for any illnesses or worse from that water, especally without warning signs and even sanctioning such activities in that water.

  2. No joke I saw a family a few weeks ago with a huge collection of crayfish they had caught and were taking home.

    That’s some gumbo I would not want to eat.

  3. Agree with Mark and Seadog re health hazards. In addition, I think it’s heartless to rip the mouth of a fish with hooks, then throw them back, just for “fun.”

  4. Catch and release of fish is like drinking decaf coffee. I don’t see the point.

  5. Um nope, no way, no how, very dangerous to suggest this is ok. Unless of course you enjoy staph infections, Enterococcus, ecoli, and possibly MRSA.
    Add some hobo trash ,glass, needles and rats you’ve got the makings of a post-apocalyptic nightmare trip. “Compassion” for allowing homeless camps along the river and a clean river are synonymous.

  6. “says 20 year old OCampo”……”Ocampo enjoys fishing — as well as some beer drinking”

    some solid editing there to leave in underage fishing. hell ya, smoke em if you got em.

  7. On thing not noted in the article, “Fishing licenses from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are required.”

  8. Even the liberal Heal the Bay organization says stay out of the river and don’t eat the fish. Not sure why it’s being promoted.

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