Winter Trout Lakes

Winter Trout Lakes

Miramar, Poway and Wohlford lakes have one thing in common: They kick out some monster trout and offer constant action this time of year. (January 2008).

Photo courtesy of Bob Pharoah.

Miramar, Poway and Wohlford lakes have one thing in common: They kick out some monster trout and offer constant action this time of year.

bout this time every winter, Sierra trout fishermen just can't stand it any longer and begin looking for some place to fish. Though they may be frozen out of the high country, this is when the lakes to the south in San Diego County are just beginning to heat up.

With more than 20 lakes in the county, there are plenty of places for anglers to get their winter trout fix.

But just which ones are the best, according to the fishermen who really know these waters?

In many interviews, the top three lakes that kept popping up were Miramar Lake, Poway Lake and Lake Wohlford.

These three lakes offer varieties of fishing conditions, but have one thing in common: They kick out some monster fish and offer constant action during the prime winter months.


San Diego City Lakes Department operates Miramar Lake, an urban oasis. It's just east of Interstate 15, north of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Miramar Lake is a clear-water reservoir that covers about 160 surface acres. The trout record here stands at 15 pounds, 8 ounces.

Lake Ranger Gary Goins said two factors make this a top trout lake:

1)Clear water that bubbles into the lake at a place known as Mo's Hole along the south shoreline, and

2)Hatchery trout brought in from Nebraska.

OK, it's no secret, but Mo's Hole is one of the trout hotspots at Miramar, if you can manage to squeeze in during the hot bites. In the winter months, boaters, tubers and shore-anglers find this a trout gloryhole.

This will be the second winter that trout from the Chaulk Mound Hatchery in Bridgeport, Neb., have been stocked at Miramar. Lakes Supervisor Joe Weber said 20,400 pounds would be put into the lake from about December through March.

The lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily for fishing and private-boat launch. Boat rentals are available Saturday through Tuesday.

Flyfisherman Bob Pharoah rates Miramar as the No. 1 winter trout lake in the county, and says the Nebraska fish are one of the big reasons.

"The fish they put in at Miramar are large, aggressive and colorful," said Pharoah, who's found February and March to be peak times at the lake.

Paul Woolery said tubers should drag "some form of Woolly Bugger" while drifting east with the wind from the lake buoy line.

"You can count on picking up one every few minutes fishing Miramar that way," he said.

Fly-casters who fish Miramar are having the best success on a bugger known as "Paul's Special," that was designed by San Diego Fly Fishers Club member Paul Britting. The fly is a typical Woolly Bugger pattern, but has some orange in the tail.

Can you think of a better name for a fisherman than Lucky Ketcham? While kicking around Miramar last March, Ketcham used the Paul's Special to nail a beautiful 8-pound Nebraska trout. Britting fished the same day, and by 2 p.m. had caught and released 25 of the beautiful green-backed trout with the pink sides. Each was more than 15 inches, and some measured up to 21.


A few miles north of San Diego is another one of the top three winter trout lakes. Poway Lake is operated by the City of Poway and has gained a reputation because of two types of rainbow trout known as thunder and lightning.

These hatchery trout from Northern California are big and put up a tough fight. They're unique in color and aerobatic when hooked. The lake also receives German browns and steelhead during the season.

Poway Lake is tucked into the rocky foothills east of Poway, but is close enough to the city that many regulars get in a few hours of fishing before heading to work.

The lake spans 60 surface acres, and its trout record stands at 17-14. From November to May, the lake is open from Wednesday to Sunday, sunrise to sunset.

Ranger Steve November said that Poway maintains one of the most aggressive trout-stocking programs in the county, with about 1,200 pounds per week and 30,000 pounds for the season.

The fish stocked at Poway are also monsters. Each winter, hundreds are caught that weigh 4 pounds or more.

"Last year," November said, "we had four consecutive weeks where double-digit trout up to 11.25 were recorded."

Things took off at Poway when the bright-gold lightning rainbows were first stocked a few years ago. The Mount Lassen Hatchery that supplies the fish then developed the companion thunder rainbows that have a greenish color and bright yellow stripe down their side.

"Both are great fish to catch," November said. "They have pink-to-red meat that tastes great, and they are aggressive when hooked."

Unlike many lakes where fish are always planted at the same location and seem to school in that area, the staff at Poway Lake put stocked fish in floating pens that are then towed to various locations for release.

"Many of our fishermen really like this because it eliminates everyone crowding into one area to fish," November said.

Visitors to Poway Lake can fish from shore, float tubes or rental boats. No launch ramp is available for private boats. Poway also offers two trout derbies during the season, including a youth derby every February and the two-day Open Trout Derby in late March. There are picnic areas, a trail system around the lake and a concession stand for bait.

Berkeley PowerBaits are always good choices for bait-fishermen, and night crawlers will attract the bigger fish. Don't overlook small green mini-jigs. I watched one angler haul in a limit of lightning trout in less than two hours, using the minis from shore in Half Moon Bay.



Continuing north a few more miles, winter trout anglers can head for the 145-acre Lake Wohlford near Valley Center. This is one of the county's older lakes and is operated by the city of Escondido. The lake is open from 6 a.m. to sunset daily, from the opening of trout season in mid-December through Labor Day. About 26,000 pounds of Mount Lassen rainbows are planted each year at Wohlford from early December until May.

Wohlford is an old, scenic lake with lots of structure, good shore access, boat rentals and a launch ramp for private boats. A few picnic tables can be found under some of the huge old oak trees that line some areas of the shore. Bait, tackle and food are available at the Lake Wohlford Resort on the north side. The record here stands at 12-0.

Lake Wohlford has always been one of those dependable fishing holes where the more competitive trout angler can work the big ones, or the armchair fisherman could relax while slowly filling his stringer.

Boaters can find good action for trout in Boat Dock and Willow Coves, and shore-fishermen can back their cars right down to the edge of the lake at the Senior Shoreline to fish in comfort.

"A Kastmaster lure always seems to work after the stock, and then PowerBait," said Art Bullard, a ranger at Wohlford.

This is not a big trolling lake, maybe because the water is not very clear. The stocked fish seem to hang about 8 to 12 inches off the bottom, so bait or lures that run deep seem to work best. Flyfishermen also find that wet flies or streamers are far more successful than dries.

"On a good day, we see a lot of 3- to 4-pound fish coming in," Bullard said. "And we try to keep the lake stocked with fish in the 1- to 2-pound range, with some bigger ones tossed in."

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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