Top Lakes for Fishing in San Diego County

Where to Freshwater Fish and What You Might Catch in San Diego

Lake Cuyamaca
Chris Palmer/Flickr/CC

San Diego has a rich fishing tradition, including a former thriving tuna fleet long gone. While most of us associate fishing here with deep sea fishing, San Diego County has a freshwater system of lakes ideal for all anglers. Although trout can be snagged during the right time, largemouth bass is king in San Diego. Here are some of the top places for lake fishing in San Diego County.

  • 01 of 10

    San Diego's only true "mountain lake," Lake Cuyamaca is number one for its scenic setting alone. Nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains, this small 110-acre lake sits at 4,620 feet above sea level, thus making it the ideal spot for trout fishing in the county, due to the fish's need for cold climate. Boats are allowed and there is also good shoreline fishing; campgrounds are also available. If you fly fish, this is where to go. Fish: Rainbow trout, sturgeon, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill.

  • 02 of 10

    If your lake is home to a 25.1 pound largemouth bass, you have to be ranked near the top, right? Dixon Lake, northeast of Escondido, is making news from such a catch (and release) of a record-setting bass from its waters. In fact, small Lake Dixon's waters have become quite a fishery for huge bass, due to the planted trout they feed upon. Campgrounds are nearby; private boats and float tubes are not allowed. Fish: Largemouth bass, trout, catfish.

  • 03 of 10

    Lower Otay Reservoir

    Located east of the booming Chula Vista subdivisions, the Lower Otay Reservoir is San Diego's bass master tournament lake. This is the lake where the hardcore bass fishermen launch their shiny bass boats and fish this large reservoir's waters, and they'll find it rich in quality bass fishing, plus some very underrated catfishing. But overall, bass rules at Lower Otay. Its small sibling, Upper Otay Reservoir, is a catch-and-release lake. Fish: Bass, bass, bass; and catfish and bluegill.

  • 04 of 10

    This 85-acre lake between El Cajon and Lakeside has a huge reputation for giant-sized catfish. Lake Jennings also is home to the larger-sized blue catfish, and every year there are reports of catfish being caught in the 12 to 15-pound range. Trout are stocked here as well. Shore fishing is very good, and there is an adjacent campground. Fish: Catfish, trout, bass, bluegill.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Lake Miramar

    For an urban lake, little ol' Lake Miramar has some heavy urban legends. This is where a 21-pound bass was discovered to have a lead diving weight in its stomach, and a dead 20-pound bass was tried to be passed as a record. Located in the Scripps Ranch area, Lake Miramar is a popular recreation lake, with bicycling, jogging and rollerblading popular around the perimeter. Picnic facilities are available, but no camping. Fish: Bass, trout, channel catfish, bluegill.

  • 06 of 10

    Lake Morena is probably considered the most remote of San Diego's fishing lakes, as it's located 3,000 feet in the Laguna foothills. But for campers, Lake Morena is heaven, with two excellent campgrounds that offer both convenient and primitive camping. The fishing's pretty darn good, too, with excellent trout fishing in the winter. Fish: Trout, bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill.

  • 07 of 10

    Lake Murray

    If you were to list all the desirables for a recreational suburban lake, then Lake Murray delivers in spades. Located smack dab in the middle of San Diego's San Carlos neighborhood, Lake Murray is extremely popular for picnics, joggers, bicyclists, and rollerbladers. Oh yeah, and the fishing is a killer for big bass. Trout is planted and is the main fish here. Motor boats, rowboats, and paddle boats rented; canoes and float tubes allowed. Fish: Trout, bass, catfish, bluegill.

  • 08 of 10

    San Vicente Reservoir

    San Vicente is one of the largest lakes in the country, at nearly 1,100 acres and 14 miles of shoreline. A 101-pound blue catfish was even caught here in 2000. San Vicente often hosts bass tournaments and is a popular water recreation lake -- it is the only freshwater lake allowing water-skiing, wakeboarding or towing inflatables. For fishing, this is a lake for bass and catfish, along with some big bluegill and crappie. Fish: Bass, catfish, bluegill.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Chollas Lake

    This tiny (16-acre) lake is an urban oasis in the Oak Park area of East San Diego (near College Grove). What makes this park unique is that fishing is allowed ONLY for kids under 15 years. Free fishing clinics are conducted, and day camps for kids are offered. Shaded by stands of eucalyptus trees, the park is popular for picnics and walking along the dirt path perimeter. Basketball courts and playgrounds are also available, and the resident geese are great entertainment. Fish: Bluegill, trout.

  • 10 of 10

    What makes Santee Lakes unique is that this chain of seven small lakes was created using reclaimed water. Located in the middle of Santee, the lakes have become a popular recreation area, with picnic and camping facilities available. And unlike all the other lakes mentioned in this article, a California Fishing License is not required (though you must pay a daily fee). Each little lake kind of has its own fishing specialty, though, truthfully, the fishing is secondary here to the recreation. Fish: Catfish, bluegill.

Updated by Gina Tarnacki on May 23, 2016.