My son, Will, and I have shared many fishing adventures, this one on the Trinity River.

In 30-plus years of living in L.A., I’d never once put a toe in our river. In fact, like most Angelinos, I didn’t know we had one. All of that changed when I watched a 2010 Los Angeles Times video of a young guy pulling a carp out of some thick reeds. While watching that video the river called to me, probably in much the same way as it called to poet Lewis MacAdams, co-founder of FoLAR and a personal hero of mine.  And since that time, I’ve dedicated quite a few hours per week promoting the river’s many stories on this blog. Who knows, it could be calling to you right now.

In fact, I’ve spent more than 10 years exploring, making new friends, fishing, reporting on river politics, and creating this community that, hopefully, you will want to join.  Whether you fly fish, spin fish, Euro Nymph or Tenkara doesn’t matter. It actually doesn’t matter if you fish at all, but rather enjoy the river with your dog, sit in its pocket parks with your other half, take photographs of its ugliness and its beauty, ride a bike, float a kayak, or enjoy lunch along its banks. Maybe you dream of a better river, where clean water flows and kids can safely swim. No matter what it is, this blog is dedicated to people who want to renew this long-neglected water.

It’s also important to know what this blog is not: It’s not a place for bragging, chest-thumping, nor a spot to prove that “mine’s bigger” (the fish, that it). The bravado often seen on other sites that contain the word “carp” in their titles is missing here. I’m not into that, don’t write about it, and don’t really care about it. My subtitle really describes how I feel about the river, “fishing for carp, waiting for steelhead,” for the day steelhead return — and they will return — we will know we’ve helped Los Angeles to become a better place. Think of it as the ultimate long-term investment, one for your grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Smaller males surround a larger female carp on their way up the Los Angeles River. (Derek Bourassa).
Smaller males surround a larger female carp on their way up the Los Angeles River. (Derek Bourassa).

What I do care about are river stories, river pictures, fish, whether they be carp, tilapia, green sunfish, bass, or the odd aquarium refugees that get tossed into the water. Send me your story and Ipics. If they fit what I’ve described here, then expect to see your work here. Because I make no money from the site, unfortunately, I can’t pay you.

I host this blog as a service to the river community. You won’t see many sponsored posts, though I do sell an occasional T-shirt. As I say after every post, “see you on the river.” I sincerely hope that I do. — Jim Burns

Once electric Red Cars delivered passengers all over L.A., which is celebrated in this riverly mural. (Barbara Burns)
Once electric Red Cars delivered passengers all over L.A., which is celebrated in this riverly mural. (Barbara Burns)

Stewardship on the Los Angeles River

Simple measures fisher-folks can take to make the river a healthier, more vibrant waterway:

Don’t kill and eat your catch

                Red-tail hawks, osprey and other birds depend on fish for their survival

Practice catch-and-release fishing

                Play your fish quickly

Use barbless hooks or bend the barb back with your hemostat

Hold your fish as gently as possible when you remove the hook

If your fish is exhausted, place back in water in your hands until it swims away

Put discarded line, bobbers and hooks in a container in your pocket

Remember all lines will not biodegrade for centuries and are a hazard to wildlife

that can become entangled and die in them

Hooks left in the water can injure wildlife, as well as barefoot humans

Buy a fishing license

                Fish legally

Support the conservation efforts of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Never enter the river during rain

                A flash flood can drag you downstream or worse

Download the INaturalist App

You can get biologists to help ID your catch without giving away your location

Watch for steelhead

Bridges are a natural vantage point to look for this fish after the rain has stopped and the water has cleared. Take a                          photograph and send it FoLAR

Keen-eyed observers have spotted steelhead in Malibu Creek, Ballona Creek and the San Gabriel River

The Guardian of the River gate in Atwater Village is one of the few access points along the river. (Jim Burns)
The Guardian of the River gate in Atwater Village is one of the few access points along the river. (Jim Burns)


45 thoughts on “About LARFF”

  1. Hey there! I just stumbled upon your blog while googling fishing in the LA River. Out of curiosity, what is the largest LA River carp you’ve caught? I’ve caught a bunch in there and the biggest one so far was about 6 or 7 pounds. Lots of small ones so far this year. Of course I catch and release. I look forward to hearing from you! Wonder if there are any real monsters down there.

  2. Hi Gary. Like you say, there are lots of carp in that range. I caught one that I think was more in the 10-pound range, or a tad bigger (I didn’t have a scale, so I’m not completely sure). Somewhere on the blog, there’s a pic of a fly fisher with a pretty good-sized carp. I’ve heard that they get to into the 20-plus range.

  3. Hi! Ive been down to the river several times and seen some beautiful and fishy waters, I have had no luck whatsoever hooking up with carp there. Any tips? Should I be sight fishing only, or should I toss my glo-bug in riffles, etc, “trout-like” spots? are you moving around alot or focusing on a particular spot for a while?

    1. Hi Steven,

      Catching carp on the river is tough, no doubt about it. Your best bet is to spend some time in a section and, yes, look for fish. Once you’ve found them, check out their behavior.
      If they’re swimming quickly upstream, they won’t feed. If they’re circling quickly, ditto. If they are jumping out of the water, forgetaboutit. What you want are fish close to the
      bottom (you’ll be able to see them) that are actively feeding. Throw your Glo-Bug (chartreuse is good) upstream about six feet. The fish are also super-spooky. If the
      egg passes above their heads, add a bit of weight. You have to basically float it past a two-to-three foot feeding cone. Then — bam — listen to your reel whine!

      Good luck, Jim

    2. You don’t fish in the river bed you snag you put a couple split shots with a treble hook and you shoot it to the foot of the cement walls and drag your hook and attempt to snag a fish. Then when you get a good sized carp stick a hook in them and attach to a leader line and a good sized piece of wood that floats and follow it back and forth and find where the school is at then snag 10ft in front and 10ft in back.

  4. Great blog. Your recent (May 2012) entry regarding trash resonates. It’s hard to feel like people can change. It’s super ironic when it’s done by fishermen who one would think care about the scenery, safety etc. Are you hip to this Carp event: http://carpthrowdown.com ? On behalf of Conway Bowman, Al Q and the rest of the team, I extend an invitation.

  5. I grew up in Whitter California and fished (actually no bait snagged with treble hooks in the LA River Bed off of Whitter Blvd between pico riveria and mines blvd and personally caught 12- 15 lb carp)Mid 1970’s to early 1980’s. And I’ve seen over a 100 dead carp floating on top of the water when the oxygen level would drop(in water).
    Does anyone rember seeing or fishing in that area.

  6. okay iwas thinking about it and may be more like 8-10 pounders. i thought about it and i dont want this to sound like the big one that got away.

  7. Hey, just stumbled onto your blog and found it really interesting. I’m a birder, not a fisherman, but I was hanging out by the river today and saw a bunch of good-sized fish, carp I guess, struggling upstream in very shallow water. Had no idea that happens in the L.A. River. So I googled “spawning la river” and bam – you’re the first hit. Thanks for the info – good stuff!

  8. Heads up to anybody heading there to anonymously call DFG’s CAL-Tip hotline (888-334-2258) to report snaggers, or other illegal fishing activities on the river.

    1. Hi Jim,

      I’ve been having a real challenge trying to get in touch with you (I’m technology impaired which doesn’t help). I caught an amazing linear carp yesterday and I’ve been trying to send you a picture. Let me know how to get it to you.

  9. For Jim Burns: I first read Charles McDermand’s Water of the Golden Trout country when I hiked the John Muir Trail at age 16. I find myself re-reading it from time to time but I have always wondered about its author. Any chance you know anything about him other than he wrote those two books?

  10. Hi Art,

    Hiking the John Muir Trail at that age must have been a real thrill. I’ve never hiked it, but have read McDermand’s Golden Trout book, marveled through it, really. His descriptions of back-in-the-day fishing made me pine for his era, but also stoked my own flame to do more for the environment.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know more about him, except what I gleaned from the book: from San Francisco, worked in a fishing (fly?) shop and was a notable fisher as well as writer.

    Tight lines, Jim

  11. Sorry if it already says this somewhere on here but what line weight would you recommend for going after carp in the LA river? I have a Sage xi2 6 weight and an 8 weight. Both are strong rods for their line weight. Would the 8 be over doing it or the 6 under gunned?


  12. I just moved back home to Burbank and was looking for some one to show me the ropes on Flyfishing for carp on the LA River. Can any one other therehelp me out.

    1. Welcome back, Shane. It’s a good bet that if you take your gear over to red car park on a weekend, you’ll see fly fishers there. The easiest way is to tie or buy some glo-bugs in chartreuse or white. Carp, bass, green sunfish and tilapia are all in the water right now.

      Size 5, 3x Tippett is a good starting point, although it may be too light for carp and too big for bass!

      Good luck, Jim

      1. Thank you for the information I appreciate it. I’m just hoping now the heavy rain didn’t hurt my chances.

  13. Great blog. I was wondering if I could throw out couple of questions that I can’t find a definitive answer to in my research about fishing and kayaking the LA river. My understanding the recreational kayaking on the River in 2 specific areas is from May 25th to October 1 this year. Does that time frame apply to fishing as well? And is fishing only allowed in those two areas or can one fish anywhere, all year?

    1. Thanks for your positive comments. The rec zones are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This is its third year, I believe. Fishing is technically only allowed in the two zones, one by Fletcher Bridge in Los Angeles, and the other in the valley. That said, ticketing for fishing ended quite a while ago, given the increased recreation awareness extended to the river through adding language to the mandate of the river, which is no longer just considered a flood control mechanism. Hope this helps. Feel free to email me for a more in depth answer, Jim

  14. Thank you for the quick reply. Ir seems like I missed the window on going kayaking on the LA river this year, but perhaps it is ok to wet the line from time to time.

  15. Hey Gary, this is Ken Lee, we met up at Mono Hot Springs a couple weeks ago (we helped Jimmie pull his boat out of Lake Edison). I hope your day on the San Joaquin was as good as mine. Really great blog you have here. I would love to learn more about fly fishing the LA river…I can obviously start by reading you past articles but if you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear them


    1. Ken, what’s going on! Yes, Jimmie got me into some insane fish. He was also very good at helping me to get ride of some bad casting habits that really improved my accuracy in the wind.

      I’m not free this weekend, but possibly next we could get in some fishing.

    1. Sure, Daniel, my wife took that shit at Red Car Pocket Park, on the east side of the river, where Glendale Blvd crosses it.

      Interesting article, btw. — Jim

  16. Thanks for the great blog man. I live about an hour away from the river and want to get into fly fishing there for carp, I see nice catches from there all the time. Have any recommendations about where to go to actually fish? Like what area, and how to enter.

    1. Thanks, Lukas. Wait until spring, prespawn, probably mid-March. That’s a great time to catch carp, probably at Red Car Park. Good luck and tight lines. — Jim

  17. Hi Jim – went through a lot of the site and it is really great intel. I am curious about fishing Ballona Creek but didn’t see much. I cycle alongside it regularly and see fish jumping… Any experience to share on this spot?

    1. Thanks for reading, Simon. A few years ago, Santa Monica Conservancy biologists (I think) found a steelhead hanging out in an abandoned refrigerator! I never get down that way. If you ever have any pics, send them along!

  18. Hi Jim, Do you know if there are any carp in the area by BDPA? I have been down there a couple times this week and not seen any, but I have only been on the North/East side.


  19. Jim…I grew up in in Glendora..and would backpack up into the East Fork regularly with friends before there were all the miners, etc. We would try to get all the way up to Iron Fork before making camp. Needless to say, our spinning gear would catch us more trout in 15 minutes with tiny Panther Martins than it appears might have been caught in the last several years. Fast Forward. My son and I, the avid fisherman, took about 6 Boy Scouts up to the same area…not to fish…but to scout for fish in the river with masks and snorkels. We might have seen two in a half mile stretch…In the same area where I could have caught 100.

    So help me understand why we are not able to restock the area. If we were able to collect fish from the stream, raise them and breed them and then replace the native fish…we would not be disturbing their “native” status. As for the frogs….If they have no predators…wont they be overpopulating the areas themselves? In my trips up there, I have seen several.

    At this time my son is looking for a way to help recover the area for an Eagle Scout project. It would be a dream of his, and mine if it had something to do with trout in the area. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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