Southern California freshwater round-up

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Diamond Valley Lake re-opened with new COVID-19 prevention policies

Many more lakes across Southern California becoming available for outdoor recreation, usually with restrictions

BY BLAKE WARREN and MIKE STEVENS

HEMET — On May 1, Diamond Valley Lake reopened for fishing, boating, hiking and biking with some restrictions and enforced rules. Rental boats will be available with occupancy limits, and the Wildflower Trail will not be open.

The new hours of operation at DVL Marina is 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. An entry kiosk will be open for cash transactions, and social distancing (6 feet) guidelines need to be followed at all times.

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Visitors are being asked to remain in their vehicles during boat inspections and banding, and face coverings must be worn at all times and are required for entry. The Marina Office/store is limited to six guests at a time. There may be other rules put in place and enforced as required by Riverside County Public Health and the Metropolitan Water District.

Fishing for bass was very productive after DVL opened back up. The numbers were there and pretty good quality, and it seemed like slow stuff like jigs and plastics got the best of it with only some scattered reaction-bait catches showing up in reports from WON contacts on the water. Michael Craig of Mentone and Prankster Lures did well on small Roboworms on ultralight line around rock walls.

DVL was just one of many lakes to show some activity as more and more fisheries loosen up and allow for some limited opportunities. Updates and status reports for key SoCal lakes are as follows:

Castaic Lake Among the few-and-far-between lakes that has remained open throughout the past month and a half, Castaic has been seeing the most boating and fishing pressure in the Southland, getting 200-plus boats a day in some cases on weekends — though that pressure should ease some with DVL and other SoCal lakes starting to open up. High winds have been the only reason for recent daily closures, though the lake will be closed on Mother’s Day, May 10 (including no walk or bike-in access).

Bass are in all phases of the spawn and the bite’s been good in both the main lake and the Lagoon, according to numerous local guide and angler reports. Water temps have come up significantly over the past 10 days (now in the high 60s nearing 70 at times) and the fish have been more active lately as a result. Fish are scattered throughout the water column with a considerable number of bass up shallow.

“There are lots of male bass bedding and we’ve seen a couple of bruiser fish come up to spawn on next week’s full moon,” said Castaic guide Jim Taibi. “The bite remains solid with 5-inch Yamamoto Senkos in Green Pumpkin/Black Flake fished weightless on a Gamakatsu Finesse gap hook and o-ring as our primary presentation. Quality fish are also coming on C3 Baits Shimmys in Neptune Shad and Watermelon Candy patterns fished on finesse Carolina rigs in deeper water. Necktie Canyon and Old S.S. are good places to start.”

Guide Rich Tauber essentally echoed Taibi’s report, saying that lots of bass are shallow and that he’s been having most of his success in 3 to 7 feet of water with a variety of soft plastics and the occasional reaction bait early. “The level is super high and water clarity is gorgeous,” Tauber told WON. “You can see 20 to 25 feet deep in some places, and you can see lots of bass in shallow water pretty much everywhere on the lake.”

Along with Senkos, anglers drop-shotting and split-shotting Roboworms in Prism Shad, Hologram Shad, Robo Bait Ball and Morning Dawn colors are also putting together some good days on the water. Look for the reaction bait to start coming on in the weeks ahead as the water temps continue to gradually rise heading toward June.

Cachuma Lake Cachuma remains open to both boating and shoreline fishing although the General Store is closed. The tackle shop remains open (805-688-4040). Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7 to 7 on the weekends. All anglers are reminded to practice social distancing.

Bass fishing is very good to excellent right now and has been in recent weeks, said area guide Rich Tauber (818-439-1154), who noted that very good numbers are available along with anglers starting to connect to a fair share of better quality fish as of late. A variety of soft plastics are getting bit well with the reaction bite getting better on a range of shad imitations with an abundance of baitfish in the lake.

“We had a fantastic week at Cachuma. Huge schools of shad are being pushed up onto the bank by grebes,” Tauber said over the weekend. “Topwater even got into the mix big time yesterday. The water level is slowly rising and is just 10 vertical feet from going over the spillway. Cachuma right now is giving up some of the very best bass fishing in Southern California. Not only are the numbers incredible, but now we’re starting to see more fish in the 6- to 10-pound class.” Tauber added that his RTF guide Steve Morris reported catching over 60 fish late last week.

As for other species, lake staffers are reporting a solid crappie bite throughout the lake on jigs, grubs and the occasional small hard bait, while some decent catfish are taking cut baits, particularly around the island.

Lake HemetA respectable suite of day use visitation opened up at Lake Hemet on May 1, and new guidelines were put in place in order to keep visitors safe. Fishing, marina rentals, personal launches, bike riding, hiking, picnics with eight or less people and use of the dog park are now open. While the initial announcement indicated there would be no overnight RV camping, it was later announced that it would also be available on May 1. The following activities are still temporarily unavailable: tent camping, cabin rentals, swimming, RVs or trailers or any gathering of more than eight. Day use guests must observe social distancing practices and remain six feet away from others at all times, and face coverings must be worn. Lake Hemet will be open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. daily, and the market will operate over the same days and hours.

WON did receive some fishing reports, and it sounds like trout fishing is pretty slow, but anglers are piling up decent numbers of bluegill and a ton of carp.

Lake SkinnerBoat rentals, marina and camp store are open as of May 1. Boats need to be back in by 4 p.m., and visitors are limited to 500 per day. Shore anglers can fish from the Marina all the way to the day use parking area before Ramp 2. Walking the shoreline to Ramp 2 is doable, but the road way is blocked. The bass bite has been solid for anglers fishing shallow with creature baits, tubes, stickbaits and jigs.

Lake PerrisClosed to all boats and vehicles, but open for locals who want to ride a bike or hike in. SoCal guide Pete Marino has been walking in with his kids and sticking some football largemouth including a 7-8, 5-1, an estimated 8 pounder that broke off and a handful more over 4 pounds.

“We’ve been catching 20-plus pounds for our best five fish every trip,” said Marino. “I’ve been targeting rocks in 2 to 7 feet of water, and long casts down the banks have been key. I’m really looking forward to the lake opening back up so I can resume guiding there and rocking it.”

Many of their biters are coming on a 5-inch worm called Pete’s Punisher that Marino helped design.

Hesperia LakeOpen for fishing from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. as of May 1, but the fish cleaning station will be closed so anglers should plan accordingly. Catfish season started with a 1,000-pound plant on May 7, and they will continue on a bi-weekly basis. Night fishing will begin in June. Pandemic-compliant rules are as follows: social distancing and face covers are required, and visitors can only congregate with members of their household. Only two customers are allowed in the store at a time, and fishing will be limited to 200 wristbands at any given time. Inlets (fingers) are closed, and restrooms will be limited to only those with soap and water for hand washing.

Silverwood LakeClosed to all vehicular traffic and boats, but walk-in or bike-in traffic and shore fishing is allowed. Lake staffers are recommending face masks and staying six feet apart from others. Several WON contacts out there are connecting to some nice striped bass while throwing bigger topwater plugs from shore.

Big Bear Lake – The lake just recently had a “soft opening” for boating this past Friday, May 1, with a 25 percent capacity rule – maximum of 25 vehicles with vessels allowed to launch. The East Public Launch Ramp is open to launching but the West Ramp remains closed until further notice. Launching is available seven days a week with limited hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. All boats must be BBMWD-banded and 2020 Seasonal Lake Permits are required. Marinas may launch BBMWD-banded slip holders’ boats only. Proper social distancing and face coverings are required and will be enforced by lake staff.

Shoreline fishing is also permitted at Big Bear with proper distancing efforts (residents and officials are, however, advocating for a locals-only policy for the time being) and it’s been mostly just a slow-to-fair trout bite in recent weeks for most anglers. It’s been your usual-suspect PowerBait, Power Eggs and nightcrawlers getting most bites, and Juniper Point and the north shore near the Red House being good starting points for now.

San Diego City Lakes – All San Diego City Lakes remained closed to fishing as of press time.

Santee LakesAmong the lone options for San Diego-area anglers with City Lakes still closed as of press time, Santee Lakes began its “phased reopening” on May 1 with various limitations and restrictions. The parking lot is open at 50 percent capacity from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week – vehicle entry only, with no walk-in guests (including bikes). Six-foot social distancing is required along with face coverings to be worn while fishing.

Dixon Lake/Lake Wohlford — Currently not open for fishing, boating or camping. As of May 1, other day use is available including hikes to the Daley Ranch. Parking spaces are going to be limited and recreation areas and parking lots close at 8 p.m. Visitors are being asked to follow county regulations regarding masks, distancing and all other COVID-19 related guidelines.

Lake Poway Opened to the public (with restrictions) on the morning of May 3. Fishing from shore is allowed, but the Fisherman’s Trail remains closed and rental boats will not be available. Parking lots will be at half capacity, the playgrounds and archery range are also closed, and active sports are limited to people in from the same household. Lake Poway opens at 6 a.m.

Lake Isabella Fishing is allowed but there’s no overnight camping and campfires have to be out by 10 p.m. Fishing has been decent for crappie, catfish and carp in the shallows, and bass action is picking up. The downer is, because of the lack of options closer to home, Isabella is taking on a ton of angler pressure from folks coming in from other areas. This paired with the low water levels could deplete the fish population.

Kern River — Technically, fishing is legal in the Kern River, but the river is largely muddy and unfishable due to increased runoff brought on by warmer weather. That’s normal stuff for this time of year. If you are going to try the upper river, target the edges close to shore as flows are spiking over 2,000 cfs. Like counties in the Eastern Sierra, many businesses are closed throughout the Southern Sierra until COVID-19 issues taper off. Kern River Fly Shop is among those hanging up the “CLOSED” sign, although they are posting reports on conditions and taking orders online.

California Aqueduct — Not only open to fishing, but fishing well for striped bass with some monsters coming out of the Palmdale area and better numbers being stacked up as it flows through Bakersfield. Flows and conditions are good.

Central Coast Round-Up – Santa Margarita Lake and Lopez Lake are both currently open with lake-specific limitations – Santa Margarita being limited to 25 or 26 boats per day and Lopez currently keeping its maximum boats on the water at 60, according to regional WON source Rich Lingor. Fishing at Lake Nacimiento is currently limited to those boats slipped at private docks or able to launch at private launch ramps (no public launching opportunities as of press time). There have been lots of recreational boaters who are able to get out on the lake, so it’s likely you’ll have to cover some water to find a solid spot to make some casts, especially on weekends. At Lake San Antonio, the ramp is open on Saturdays and Sundays only from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and there have been far fewer boats out here as of late.

As far as the fishing goes in this neck of the woods, bluegill are now up in the shallows at the majority of Central Coast lakes (time to start thinking heavily about leaning on chartreuse/bluegill pattern soft plastics and cranks) and bass fishing is on the improve across the region. Springtime topwater action is kicking into gear now – particularly at Lake Nacimiento, where the cooler water-favorable spotted bass are the prevalent target. Very good numbers are being had there for those getting out, and as just mentioned, the surface bite could/should very likely be in play early and late, especially after the most recent heat wave to hit the area.

Santa Margarita has been offering up a pretty solid bass bite by most recent accounts, with a considerable number of largemouth up in shallow water after this most recent warmer weather. Bluegill-pattern soft plastics are a good bet here as well, along with Roboworms in Margarita Mutilator and Red Crawler colors. Some good catches are also being made on a mix of topwater, crankbaits and jerkbaits, and the recent average bass have been running 2 to 3½ pounds with a handful of 4-plus-pound fish also in the mix. Anglers soaking cut baits are finding a fair share of willing catfish. Boat rentals are also currently available at the lake.

Lopez is a tad less productive with the current bass bite but still giving up some decent fishing nonetheless. Similar tactics are working here like at Santa Margarita, just not equating to quite the same overall numbers – quality has been pretty good though by most accounts. As mentioned, a fair number of bluegill are up in shallower water along with redear sunfish, where those anglers targeting them are finding success on mealworms, nightcrawlers and redworms. Anglers specifically targeting crappie at both lakes with Gitz-Its and similar crappie jigs are scoring in decent enough numbers as well. Trout are also pretty active and boaters trolling Rapalas, Kastmasters and DareDevils are putting some solid stringers together.

Lake San Antonio is seeing far less boat traffic than other regional lakes, and bass fishing has been “tough as nails,” lately, according to Lingor, who noted that from most accounts the lake is plugged with shad right now – which explains the lack of bites with largemouth gorged on the baitfish. Expect things to pick up to some degree with any continued warmer weather, however. Carp have been plentiful in the shallows over the last week or two for those going that route.

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