Lobster, abalone. yellowtail. bass, catfish, and trout. They all taste great served up at one of San Diego's ubiquitous sea food restaurants. But like vegetables from the backyard, fish seems to taste even better when you've caught it yourself. And with a lobster dinner getting up around S10. it pays to try your luck at one of the county's many lakes, piers and shorelines.
INLAND FRESHWATER LAKES
All of the county's prime fresh-water fishing holes are man-made. After a suitable site is dredged, the lake is built and stocked with a wide variety of fish. Largemouth bass, a species native to Florida, are the most popular and can be found at most of the lakes. Spawned at Upper Otay Lake (a reservoir closed to public fishing), the mature bass are then sent to lakes throughout the county. “lunkers” (the name for bass weighing in at over 10 pounds) are now common, along with a good number of rainbow trout, channel catfish, bluegill. crappie. sunfish and yellow bullhead.
Old pros are always full of advice for the inexperienced and can be a lot of help with choosing bait. line, hooks and a good spot to try your luck. Many of the lakes have areas for picnicking. some have overnight facilities, and all have concession stands that vend boat rentals, permits, bait and tackle, licenses and food. All California fish and game laws are in effect at the lakes.
The State Department of Fish and Game (1350 Front St.. 234-7311) has experts who can fill you in on particulars, and each lake is listed in the phone book. Copies of the 1975 California Sport Fishing Regulations are available at bait and tackle shops and sporting good stores, where you can also purchase a number of books written by local fishing pros. Bill Rice's Fishing in the San Diego Bass Lakes was an excellent source of information for .this article.
Lower Otay Lake. This is the best source of the really big bass, as it feeds from the spawning ground right above it. It's located east of Chula Vista on Wueste Road and open on Wednesdays, weekends and holidays from February to late fall.
El Capitan Lake. Located 8 miles east of Lakeside on El Monte Park Road, it will open in mid-March on Thursdays, weekends and holidays. The lake stocks both Florida and northern bass and is one of the better channel catfish spots. Good bluegill catches have also been recorded here.
San Vicente Lake. One of the best spots in the state for crappie. this site located 3 miles north of Lakeside on Morena Drive has a good number of rainbow trout, catfish and smaller bass. It’s open from October through April.
Lake Sutherland. Open only from late April until September, Sutherland ranks up with Lower Otay and El Capitan for the best bass fishing. Bluegill and catfish action are also fast here. Located 6 miles northeast of Ramona, off Highway 78.
Lake Miramar. Just north of the Naval Air Station, you can find the best trout Fishing in the county here. The bass are few, but some of the biggest have been pulled from these waters. Open most of the year, Miramar is also a good spot for red-ear sunfish.
Lake Murray. No Florida largemouth bass is stocked here, but some lucky angler pulled in a 29 pound catfish and the trout are plentiful. Murray is a popular lake, set right off 70th St. and Lake Murray Blvd., and is open from November to July.
Lake Jennings. Blessed with a campground close by, bass and sunfish are the most numerous at this Lakeside fishing hole. Open from November til July, Jennings is a good bet for trout and catfish too.
Lake Henshaw. Open all year, Henshaw offers bass, crappie and catfish and a smaller number of bluegill and trout. It's 11 miles north of San Isabel.
Lake Cuyamaca. 10 miles inland from Julian, Cuyamaca has rainbows, bass, sunfish and catfish and is also open all year.
Lake Wohlford. Stocked with all the species, this Escondido lake is open from March through September.
Lake Morena. Camping is legal right near the lake, where you can catch bass, bluegill and crappie. It’s east of Laguna, by Buckman Springs.
Lake Poway. Open year-round, this north county spot has a good number of trout, largemouth bass and sunfish.
OFF-SHORE AND DEEP-SEA
For the four dollars it costs to by a license (good for the calendar year, not necessary on public piers), you can expect to grab a number of albacore, yellowtail, bonito or barracuda from the helm of an offshore boat. Lobster (the season opened just last week) and abalone, limited to 7 and 5 respectively, are found by divers off Pt. Loma (Ladera St.) and around Bird Rock in La Jolla. Hightide and night diving offer the best chances.
Part boats leave Shelter Island two times a day, at 6 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and if you have a large group the boats can be chartered. They also made day-long runs to the Coronados (10 miles offshore). The charter operations, all manned by experienced hands who’ll help the uninitiated with baiting and casting, are located along Scott St. Rates are competitive.
If you've got access to a boat and want to stay close to home, Crown Pt. in Mission Bay and Quivira Basin are good spots for halibut, croakers, and bass.
A number of American and Mexican charter firms can get you down to Baja, the center of yellowtail activity on the west coast. While Mexican laws control fishing in these waters, anything landed at our ports must meet our regulations on limits and size.
The Fish and Game Department has printed a number of pamphlets on coastal fishing including an Ocean Fishing Map, a guide to Inshore and Offshore Fishes and a handbook on Lengths, Weights and Ages of the most popular Southern California fishes. A good book on the subject is Ray Cannon’s How To Fish The Pacific Coast. Diving supply stores (Diving Locker, Diving Unlimited, New England Divers etc.) are a good place to pick them up as well as to get information on good spots and times to try your luck.