Fresh & Saltwater Fishing in San Diego:

San Diego County is home to over 20 fish worthy lakes, most of which are excellent fisheries.

San Diego is home to 23 lakes that are open to fishing within the county. The County’s lakes are small, man-made and most are water storage reservoirs first and foremost. Our region is dry, so water is at a premium. The focus of these lakes is to provide freshwater to the residents of San Diego County. If you’re new to San Diego, and have experience fishing elsewhere in the country, knowing this will help you better understand the restrictions that you may find confining with San Diego’s local lakes.

The first shocker may be in their operating schedule – all lakes are closed at night. None of the local lakes offer overnight stays on the lake. During periods of the summer, several lakes offer night fishing programs, but even then they close at some point during the night or early morning. In addition to that, the majority of the lakes are not open every day. They are either closed for a few days during the week, or for a period during the year.

The next thing you’ll notice about San Diego freshwater fishing is that all of the lakes require a permit, which is purchased at the lake, to be able to fish for the day. This is on top of the California State Fishing License which is required at most lakes. Lakes that have launch ramps also charge a launch fee for each boat, and some charge a parking fee per vehicle. One special reservoir, Barrett requires anglers to purchase “tickets” to the lake via and limit the amount of tickets sold to 40 per day (each ticket allows 4 anglers to enter and fish).

Bass, channel catfish, and bluegill are found at every reservoir in the area. Crappie (mostly Black Crappie), blue catfish, bullheads, carp, green sunfish, redear sunfish, and rainbow trout are found in quite a few of the lakes. Rainbow trout are stocked, with Lake Cuyamaca, which sits at 4,620 feet above sea level being the only reservoir that stocks trout year-round. Smallmouth bass are found in Lake Cuyamaca. Sturgeon are found in lake Cuyamaca, on a rare occasion.

Santee Lakes: Opening weekend for their catfish season is April 7th and 8th. 2,000 pounds of catfish will be stocked in lakes 3 and 4 for the opening weekend, including tagged fish worth prizes. Trout are still being caught and reported, despite the last stock coming on March 7th. Bass are spawning and a couple of nice largemouth were reported there recently including a 9.3 pounder for Charlie Grawey from Lake 5, caught on a swimjig. Bass are catch and release only at Santee Lakes. Park hours are 8 am to 7 pm Monday – Thursday and 6 am to 7 pm Friday – Sunday. Visit for more information.

San Diego is home to a variety of fresh and saltwater species of fish.

San Diego offers some of the best and most diverse saltwater sportfishing in the United States. Because of that, one of the world’s largest sportfishing fleets calls San Diego home, offering sportfishing trips from 1/2 day to 21 days in length and covering fishing grounds from San Diego to the Baja Peninsula.

San Diego’s sportfishing culture is so renowned, national outdoors magazine Field & Stream calls San Diego “the sportfishing capital.”