The Los Angeles River begins in the San Fernando Valley and flows southeast through multiple cities in the Los Angeles area. It originally was a natural river populated by native fish, but those populations decreased after concrete channels were installed in the wake of severe flooding in the 1930s and 1940s. Non-native fish began to take over the river, including the carp, a popular choice for leisure fishers.
The carp found in the Los Angeles River belong to the common carp species. Carp have a distinct frond-like protuberance on each side of the mouth. They typically feature bronze or golden colors on their sides, with a whitish underbelly. Carp can vary in size, ranging from weights of 1 lb. up to 60 lbs. and up to 40 inches in length. Sometimes carp do not have scales, or are only partially covered by them. These specimens are called "leather" or "mirror" carp.
The larger body size of carp allows fishers to employ different techniques when fishing in the Los Angeles River. You can use a cane pole, a throw line or bait casting rods to catch carp. Popular bait choices include worms, crayfish tails and small balls of dough stuck to the end of a hook. Less conventional methods like using a bow and arrow, spear fishing and clubbing are not advised for fishing in the river, especially around fellow fishers.
Many people fish in the soft-bottomed sections along the Los Angeles River's banks, but fishing along the river has not been officially sanctioned. It is illegal to walk in the river's channel below the bike paths running near the banks. Fishing near the river has been approved for Lake Balboa in the Sepulveda Basin. You must possess a valid California fishing license if you are over 16 years of age before fishing in the river. Licenses can be purchased through sporting goods stores.
Eating Caught Carp
Much of the water in the Los Angeles River comes from sewage treatment facilities. In 2007, the Friends of the Los Angeles River organization conducted a study to test the levels of toxins in fish living in the river. Carp were found to have low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), with between 9.4 and 16.3 parts per billion. These numbers are below the level of 21 parts per billion of PCBs that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment says is safe to consume three times a week. However, most of the carp caught for the study were not mature, so those levels could be higher in older fish. Use your judgment when eating Los Angeles River carp to decide if the risk is worthwhile.
- Los Angeles River: Safe to Eat?
- Los Angeles River: Fishing on the LA River?
- "Los Angeles Times"; Reports of monster fish in the L.A. River? Get reel; Steve Hymon; April 2007
- L.A. Creek Freak; Fish in the Los Angeles River; Jessica Hall and Joe Linton; October 2008
- Dictionary of Fish: Carp
- The River Project: Know Your Watershed
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images