A Guide to Local San Diego Freshwater Fishing Guides

Lake Jennings
Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings

I’ve been the San Diego area for a few decades and I’ve fished local lakes since I first arrived here, but I wouldn’t think twice about hiring local freshwater fishing guides to put me on fish at these very tough fisheries.

San Diego lakes hold some of the heaviest largemouth bass in the world, but knowing how to fish them and where to catch them can be very challenging to someone who doesn’t know the lakes. There also are giant blue catfish in some lakes and even sturgeon at Lake Cuyamaca. None of the guides listed below mention sturgeon as a target fish, but you might be able to convince them to go try for one at the mountain lake.

Bottom line is that San Diego has a handful of good freshwater fishing guides who can take the guesswork out of fishing these lakes. Most of them offer the latest in fishing gear and lures and know all the latest techniques to catch bass or any fish you might want to target.

A Few Freshwater Fishing Guides in San Diego

  • James Nelson offers both saltwater and freshwater trips. He has a 24-foot Triton and Mercury Optimax motor that can make trips across lakes in no time. As a tournament fisherman, he always knows what’s biting and where. Whatever deal you work out with Nelson will be a fair one. Call him at 619.395.0799 or check
  • Gabe Bolivar was Rookie of the Year on the FLW Tour, a professional bass fishing circuit, and now runs Gabe Bolivar’s Bucketmouth Adventures. He offers half and full day trips with up to two anglers. If you’re up for it, Gabe also has a two-day special. Call him at 760.842.7934 or contact him at
  • Alan Clowers has 25 years experience fishing local lakes and saltwater. For saltwater trips he offers his 20-foot Ranger boat and a lot of local knowledge fishing these lakes. Call him at 619.800.3474 or go online at
  • Bill Schaefer also is a combination freshwater and saltwater guide. He knows the local lakes well and has vast experience fishing them. Check his website at or call him at 858.277.8087 for rates and reservations.
  • Tom Lowery also is a tournament angler who knows San Diego lakes well. Call 858.922.9933 for rates and reservations.

> Find even more Fishing in San Diego


5 Great Camping and Fishing Spots in San Diego

Lake Jennings

A few years ago I decided to try some tent camping in order to get an early start on some shoreline fishing at Lake Jennings, just one of a handful of lakes in San Diego County where camping can be part of the fishing experience. There’s something unique and very worthwhile about camping above the suburbs of San Diego’s East County and looking down at the city lights from a bluff above the campground.

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Great Freshwater Fishing Spots in San Diego

Russel Park and a Rainbow Trout
Russel Park and a Rainbow Trout

Fresh Catch of the Day

There’s a reason Field and Stream Magazine placed San Diego No. 2 on its list of America’s Best Fishing Cities. In addition to some of the most diverse saltwater fishing in the world and two productive bays, the area has 23 different lakes to choose from for a great freshwater experience.

When I moved to San Diego, I thought it was all about the ocean, but I soon found out there is a whole other world out there for fishermen at this area’s mix of city and county lakes. At most lakes you can count on catching trophy-sized largemouth bass, catfish and bluegill, but many are stocked with trout in the late fall, winter and spring. Some lakes like Dixon, Poway, Santee Lakes and Wohlford get stocked with channel catfish in the spring and summer months.

Before heading out onto the water, you’ll need a California fishing license ($14.30 for a one-day state license) at most lakes, but Dixon, Santee and Poway lakes don’t require a one. You will need a fishing permit ranging from $6 to $9, depending on the lake.

Here are my three favorite freshwater lakes, based on good shoreline access and good fishing:

Santee Lakes Cabins

Cabins on the Shorelines of Santee Lakes. Photo courtesy of East County Magazine

Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes, an oasis out in San Diego’s East County, offers seven fishing lakes the size of big ponds, really! While all the lakes are stocked with fish, lakes 3 and 4 get the most activity because they’re the most heavily stocked with trout and catfish and lakes 6 and 7 are reserved for campers. Great access around all the lakes, RV camping and kid-friendly fishing make this a must for the family of fishermen.

Cost is $3 per vehicle during the week, $5 on weekends. State permits are not require but fishing permits can be purchased at $9 for adults, $6 for juniors. Extra pole rentals are $4. There are also limited boat rentals.

The Calm Waters of Lake Murray

The Calm Waters of Lake Murray

Lake Murray

Lake Murray, located at the base of Cowles Mountain in the Mission Trails Regional Park, offers convenient shoreline access, a fishing pier and good boat launch. The surrounding park area and trail are also great for picnics, biking, running or just relaxing outside.

You’ll need a California fishing license and the permits go for $8 for adults, $2.50 for kids 8-15 and kids 7 and under fish free. Boat rentals are also available.

Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca. Photo by Jasmine’s Cove

Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca, a bit of a drive from the city (about an hour), is nestled in the San Diego’s miniature version of the High Sierra, the Cuyamaca Mountains. The lake – stocked most of the year with rainbow trout, bass, crappie and catfish – offers great shoreline access, fishing piers and fishing jettys. Just along the shoreline are great camping sites, cabins and RV spots to help make it a relaxed weekend of fishing.

Costs are $6 for adults, $3.50 for kids 15 and under. There are boat rentals and a boat launch, but all private boats must be inspected for invasive species such as quagga mussels ($10 charge).

Tell me, where is your favorite freshwater fishing spot in San Diego County?