5 Best Fishing Lakes in San Diego, CA

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America’s Finest City is also one of America’s finest places to fish. With several fishing charters, excellent weather all year, and a mouth-watering variety of fishes, this city is an angler’s dream come true. 

However, if you are visiting an inexperienced angler, the many options can become a nightmare. Do you want to narrow down the fishing list? We know exactly where you should go and what you will need. 

Follow us on this journey through the best lakes in San Diego for fishing!

lakes in san diego for fishing
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5 Best Fishing Lakes in San Diego, CA

1. Barrett Lake

If you want to have a truly rare experience, Barrett Lake is the fishing lake you want. However, you will need to reserve tickets between May and September, when the lakes open thrice weekly. The tickets on Ticketmaster sell out fast, so don’t dilly-dally. 

The lake is also for catch and releases only. You will only be allowed to use artificial lures with barbless hooks. Ensure that you go prepared with the right equipment and a valid California fishing license. 

There would be state fish officers who enforce these rules. These rules help preserve the fishes in the lake, and it adds to the charm of this lake. So, ensure you make your bookings a month ahead, or you might not get one.  

What Types of Fish to Expect?

Barrett Lake is famous for its aggressive largemouth bass, which you might find in other lakes. It is the county’s last known indigenous population of this fish species. 

The fishes are also in abundance as anglers have caught as many as 3,600 basses in one day. So, you can see why the place is a must-be for anglers. 

How Do You Get There? 

Barrett Lake is located at 19886 Japatul Lyons Valley Road, Jamul, CA. This location is within a day’s driving distance of San Diego. You can be back home the same day if you make your reservations right.

However, if you want a place closer to home and less competitive fish, you should check out the other lakes. 

2. Lake Cuyamaca

No matter the time of the year, Lake Cuyamaca is your best bet for trout fishing. The lake is stocked with different fish species, from trout to Florida-strain largemouth bass.

We’ll talk more about the fish later. What you might love most about this lake is the scenic view and how accessible it is. 

The 110-acre lake is elevated at more than 4,000 feet, giving it a cool temperature all year long. Lakefront camping is a thing at this lake, and you can even take one of the lake-view condos available. 

With a restaurant, tackle store, and mini-mart, it makes for the perfect weekend getaway for any angler. Private boats are allowed with a minimum length of 10 feet. You can also use canoes and kayaks in the summer months.  

What Types of Fish to Expect?

With the cool temperature and 45,000 pounds of rainbow trout stocked annually, you will always find trout in this fishery. It is also home to a good bass between 7-11 pounds. However, the largemouth bass doesn’t usually get so significant due to the cool temperature. 

Sturgeon is another fish species you might have the luck of finding in this reservoir, though it is pretty rare. Kameron Kane caught and released an above-50-pound white sturgeon in 2014.

You might be the next lucky angler. If not, you will have some luck with the crappie, bullheads, bluegills, and catfish. 

How Do You Get There?

Lake Cuyamaca is located at 15027 Hw 79, Julian, CA. You can get there easily in a car or take public transport like a tram, bus or taxi if you can ask for directions from a local or use your Google map. It is not so hard to find. 

3. Lake Murray

Lake Murray is open for fishing from December to September. It is within the Mission Trails Regional Park, so you can be sure of a great time with your children.

The lake also boasts many facilities, with rowboats, canoes, pedal boats, and motorboats available for rent. 

It is not about the extra facilities, though the lake is abundant. With 171.1 surface acres and a maximum depth of 95 feet, you can be sure there is enough space to fish. Anglers will also enjoy the variety of fish species that you can find in this reservoir. 

Note that you can’t camp at this lake, and you can’t make ground fires or use glass containers. But you can get your California state fishing license here, which would be useful at other lakes. Now, let’s get into why this lake is enjoyable.

What Types of Fish to Expect?

You can fish trout, black crappie, bluegill, catfish, and largemouth bass at Lake Murray. The bass is at least 12 inches long. So, you know a good variety and size. 

Note that you can only catch five trout, bass, or catfish. On the other hand, the catch limit for the bluegill and crappie is twenty-five.  

How Do You Get There?

Lake Murray is located at 5440 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa, CA. You can easily find it as the lake is a favorite spot for more than its fishing. You can use any transportation system to reach the location.  

4. Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes is a good place if you are looking for a spot for easy fishing as a beginner. It is a chain of artificial reservoirs with planted fish. These lakes are surrounded by a lovely urban park with a campground. 

You can make an entire holiday out of your visit from the various activities offered. There are volleyball, picnic areas, playgrounds, a lakefront grill, and a well-stocked general store.

Another advantage of camping is that you can access two lakes set aside for camping at the lake. In essence, Santee Lakes qualifies as a resort than just a lake. 

But you don’t have to be discouraged by that fact. The lakes are open daily for public use at various times. You should confirm the fees and required permits on their page before setting out. 

What Types of Fish to Expect?

Do you want to catch some monster trout for bragging rights? You can hook the biggest catch of your angling life in these lakes. You are also in for some catfish and largemouth bass.

You can get them with plastic worms, lipless crankbaits, or jerk baits. Check out the stocking dates on the page to time your fishing expedition. 

How Do You Get There?

Santee Lakes is not exactly in San Diego, but it is only 17 miles from downtown San Diego. You can hire a car or drive a car down there. Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay the vehicle fee at the parking entrance. 

5. Lake Miramar

Are you looking for a place where you won’t be disturbed much? Lake Miramar is your fishing spot. While many people jog past the 162-acre lake, not many anglers take advantage of the lake. 

Though the trout stocking is not what it used to be when the state government was in charge, you will still have a good catch in cool months. California’s Fish and Wildlife Department stocks the waters twice monthly. 

You can make use of your kayak, canoe, or boat in the lake, but not beyond the 5 MPH limit. You can always fish on any day, but you need to schedule to use the concession stand.  

What Types of Fish to Expect?

While trout fishing is passable, the monster largemouth bass draws anglers to this lake. Miramar is known for producing 5 of the biggest 25 largemouth bass ever. The 20 feet visibility of the water makes it perfect for sight bass fishing in spring.

You should use the drop-shotting technique if you want to catch bass. Drop your line in deep waters where it is not visible to you from the surface. You can also try using trout-imitating swimbaits in winter and crankbaits in summer months. 

How Do You Get There?

Lake Miramar is located at 10455 Scripps Lake, San Diego. It is only 20 minutes to the north of downtown San Diego. It would help if you didn’t have any trouble driving down. 


Angling can be enjoyable, even for beginners, if you find a suitable lake. You can’t go wrong with any of the best fishing lakes in San Diego, CA, that we have reviewed.

Don’t forget to always take the right equipment and your California fishing license (if you are 16 and above). You should also ensure that you make reservations ahead where necessary. 

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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