Mostly known for its pristine beaches, San Diego County is home to more than 20 freshwater lakes and reservoirs. These bodies of water offer a variety of recreational opportunities away from the coast and the city. Lake fishing aficionados can hook catfish, bluegill, carp, crappie, sunfish bass, and trout. Water enthusiasts can enjoy kayaking, boating, rowing, and wakeboarding on the calm waters. For families, barbecue and picnic areas offer the perfect excuse to spend the day by the lake.
Grab your fishing rod, camping gear, or picnic basket and explore one of these seven freshwater lakes and reservoirs.
Just 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, you’ll find Lake Murray, the perfect quick city escape. The lake is located within Mission Trails Regional Park, an 8,000-acre outdoor recreational area. Throughout the day, locals come here to jog, walk, rollerblade, or bicycle along the designated paths. Fishing is at its best December through September when black crappie, bass, bluegill, and catfish abound. If you are not into fishing you can still enjoy time on the water. Rent a motorboat, rowboat, carp, kayak, or pedal boat. Afterward, relax by the lake and enjoy the various picnic and barbecue areas available.
San Diego’s North County Inland is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Within the Scripps Ranch community, the Miramar Reservoir is popular for producing some of the biggest largemouth bass in the world. Besides fishing, visitors can enjoy boating, kayaking, and canoeing activities. There are 18 barbecues and 48 picnic tables for family outings. The park’s concession facility offers boat and bike rentals, bait and tackle, and snacks. Bring your walking shoes and enjoy the five-mile-long scenic trail that wraps around the lake.
About an hour’s drive east of San Diego, Lake Cuyamaca offers completely different scenery. The area is surrounded by pine trees, green mountains, and picturesque towns. The lake offers many adventure opportunities like bird watching, hiking, and fishing. A variety of fish stock the lake, including trout, which is available all year long. You can spend the night camping or at a lake view cabin. A visit to this lake can’t be completed without a stop in Julian for fresh-baked apple pie.
Located in East County, Lake Jennings is a recreational gem perfect for camping and families. The camping ground offers from full hookups (water, electricity, and sewer) to non-hookup tent sites. Kids can enjoy fun activities like ladder golf, horseshoes, air hockey, foosball, and scavenger hunts. Fishing is restricted to registered campers Monday through Thursday. Day visitors can fish Friday through Sunday. During summer, the lake stays open late on Fridays and Saturdays for night fishing. If you are into birdwatching this is also a great spot. Other amenities include boat rental, picnic areas, wildlife viewing, and hiking.
Santee Lakes Recreational Reserve
A 194-acre privately owned park consisting of seven scenic lakes, the reserve is an important recreational area for the local community. Campers can enjoy the 300 full hookup campground equipped with wifi, an off-leash pet area, laundry facilities, and swimming pools. If you don’t want to rough it, rent one of their lakefront or floating cabins. These feature a patio or deck, pedal boats, barbecue grills, AC and heating, flat screens, bathrooms, and kitchens. Year-round fishing is available with no state license required; you’ll only need a permit from their General Store. Other amenities include boating, playgrounds, walking trails, and bird watching. The lake is open Monday through Sunday and a vehicle entry fee applies.
San Vicente Reservoir
The city’s largest reservoir is located 25 miles northeast from downtown San Diego. Picnic tables and barbecue areas are available, but fishing is the top reason why locals come here. The clearwater is home to crappie, sunfish, channel catfish, and Florida strain largemouth bass. This is also a hot spot for fun watersport activities like boating, kayaking, waterskiing, and wakeboarding. Its new marina facilities include a 900-foot-long, 6-lane launch ramp, parking, restrooms, bait shop and concession store. There is a general admission fee to enter the lake.
Boasting a mixture of desert, coastal and mountain habitats, Lake Morena is the most remote lake of the county’s reservoirs. You can explore 3,250 acres of chaparral, oak woods, and grassland. Diverse wildlife calls this place home, including bald eagles, bobcats, and migratory waterfowl. Boating and fishing are popular activities with rainbow trout and largemouth trout as the most desired prizes. The park offers two camping areas nicely surrounded by a shady grove of trees. Both campgrounds are within walking distance to restroom facilities, coin-operated showers, and the ranger station. For more comfort, you can rent wilderness cabins equipped with bed frames (no mattresses), propane heaters, fire rings, and picnic tables.
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