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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base"

Camp Pendleton hosts a fishing culture for anglers of all walks of life

By Lance Cpl. Broc Story | Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton | June 23, 2020


Although early methods of fishing were developed as a means to procure sustenance, fishing is also one of the oldest sports known to mankind. Today, many enjoy partaking in the sport of fishing simply to relax and be around friends and family.

Through the development of the sport, a rich culture of friendship and spiritual fitness has been established. This culture is extended throughout Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton by anglers (people who fish using a rod and line with a hook on the end) from all walks of life. From active-duty service members and veterans to civilians who work on base, all anglers are bonded by the pursuit of the catch.

“In terms of the culture of Camp Pendleton anglers…I’ve seen it all,” said Colonel Christeon Griffin, commanding officer of Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division. “Some folks are looking to catch dinner; others are mostly interested in spending time with their son or daughter.”

Camp Pendleton offers on-base residents both freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. With the struggles brought about by COVID-19, going out for an afternoon fishing excursion is a great way to reset and refocus. Spending time with fellow anglers outdoors fosters a social connection between on-base personnel while maintaining social distancing practices. Opportunities to fish are plentiful, and most of them have remained available throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the things that I am proudest of is having introduced several friends and family members who have gone on to become avid fishermen and women. My wife is one of those. She has acquired more rods than me now,” said Griffin.

The best fishing opportunities are presented during the warm summer months. As the water temperature increases, fish populations become more active and therefore hungrier, increasing the angler’s chances of success. To enjoy these fishing opportunities, one must acquire a California State fishing license as well as an on-base permit, both of which are available for purchase on base at the STAR counter of the Mainside PX.

“I talk to Marines all the time that say they enjoy fishing, but they don’t know what all is involved in getting set up to fish on base,” said Griffin. “I tell them to go over to the game warden’s office and see Mike. Getting set up is simple, and Mike will go out of his way to help them.”

Among the three freshwater fishing locations on Camp Pendleton, Lake O’Neil is a popular destination for on-base anglers due to its proximity and wide array of species. This family-friendly lake provides the perfect environment for first-time anglers to give the sport a try. Passing the tradition and culture of fishing down to the next generation ensures the survival of the game and benefits that come with it. Of the varieties of fish found on Camp Pendleton, Catfish, Blue Gill, and Bass are some of the most fished species, although new anglers should be aware that Lake O’Neil Bass are protected by a catch-and-release-only policy, which ensures the species numbers do not dwindle.

“Some years Lake O’Neill has some huge bass, and you’ll see Marines before work, at lunch, and after work out there fishing,” stated Michael Tucker, chief game warden, Game Wardens Office, Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Popular destinations for salt-water anglers are Del Mar, San Onofre, Red Beach, White Beach, and Gold Beach. Whether from the shore or off a kayak, Camp Pendleton fisherman frequently catch Surfperch and a wide range of species including Leopard Sharks and Bat Rays. Given this proximity to both salt-water and freshwater fishing areas, base personnel have access to the best of both worlds.

The culture surrounding the fishing world is similar to the brother- and sisterhood that exists within the Marine Corps, and lifelong friendships often develop through this common interest. The time spent outdoors fishing gives anglers the chance to relax and talk about their troubles. Removed from the day to day challenges, all fisherman can clear their minds.

“No matter what is going on in my life, when I am fishing, everything else fades away,” said Colonel Griffin. “I also love taking new people and seeing them catch fish.”

Spiritual fitness is a crucial component of over-all mission readiness. Finding activities to maintain this fitness and over-all mental well-being can be challenging at times. With Camp Pendleton’s fishing options, Marines have a multitude of opportunities to exercise their spiritual fitness through fishing.

“I find fishing extremely therapeutic. You feel closer to nature and have a great view,” stated Lance Cpl. Anthony Alvarez, a combat videographer with Marine Corps Installations-West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “It is one of the highest forms of therapy.”

To preserve this culture on base, the Camp Pendleton Resource Enforcement and Compliance Team works to ensure regulations are followed correctly to maintain the fish habitats on base. By planting fish and working on habitat maintenance, the Team ensures that fishing culture can thrive.

“On a weekly basis, we reserve training areas for fishing and post available areas to our website,” stated Tucker. “We patrol fishing areas to ensure unauthorized or illegal fishing does not ruin opportunities for others.”

Fishing has long brought friends and family together to reconnect with nature by getting outside and casting a line. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton fosters these bonds among peers and family members by providing an abundance of opportunities to participate in the sport. From seasoned anglers to rookies of the sport, Camp Pendleton’s on-base fishing provides a welcoming culture of fishing to all walks of life.