Southern CA Freshwater

Newly re-opened San Vicente Reservoir fishes like a golf course pond

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff WriterPublished: Sep 28, 2016

Plenty of 100-fish days, 20-plus-pound limits and bass biting anything after 8-year closure

LAKESIDE — So many times in the fishing world, the hype surrounding “opening day” type events becomes too much for reality to live up to, and participating anglers are left with a short-of-expectations feeling once the dust settles.

That was not the case at the grand “re-opening” at San Vicente Reservoir.

FISTS FULL OF bass of this size were the norm during San V’s opening week. Shown here is San Diego angler Josh Draper who said, “This is what the average fish caught today looked like at Lake San Vicente. Got over a 100 fish today, Nothing over 4.6 pounds, but I didn't get anything smaller then 3lbs either. Hands down the best bass fishing day ever. So glad to be part of today's history. WON photo by Mike Stevens


I arrived at the gate at about 8 a.m., and according to the ladies in the booth, anglers started lining up at 5 a.m., and once they started letting them in, it was a smooth process with few hiccups. One of those staffers made a point to mention that fishermen are a lot better at “getting with the program” than other boaters. Well, yea.

When I got to the top of the hill, the parking lot was predictably dominated by full-size trucks and boat trailers, but there wasn’t a human being in sight. It was eerie. You could hear a pin drop as everyone was on the water and had been for hours.

I took a lap through the concession area to get a look at the brand new facilities including the store, restrooms, covered picnic tables and other miscellaneous structures accented with new drought-tolerant plants throughout. From there I made my way down the ramp to the docks and caught my first glimpse of opening-day anglers, some working well within casting distance of the new dock. Between the bottom of the launch ramp and the boathouse on the dock, I saw easily 20-foot-visibility water, clouds of bass fry, a school of small bluegill and no less than a dozen 2- to 4-pound bass patrolling below them, and that was just at the end of the ramp.

FLOAT TUBERS AND kayakers were also getting bent at San V. WON photo by Mike Stevens

From then on, I hiked around the lake on foot, and in that short stroll I saw: guys catching chunky largemouth off the dock on spinnerbaits and 10-inch worms before they even untied their boat and headed out, kayakers and float tubers catching finesse fish tight to the shore, plenty of double and triple hookups on big swimbaits and topwater along with jig fish, underspin fish, even spoon fish.

After quick lunch I started stalking the first guys coming off the lake and calling it a day so I could pick their brains and see how it was out there. It was the same for all of them. With looks on their faces that one might describe as a “euphoric haze” as if they couldn’t believe what they had just done, the list of what worked spewed from their mouths: big swimbaits, big topwater and plastics, jigs, chatterbaits, swimjigs, rats, spoons, underspins, and so on. The one thing I didn’t hear about hitting the water was drop-shots. Sure, it had to be going on somewhere, but most guys didn’t bother with them. Too slow, time consuming and small. It just wasn’t necessary.

“The morning bite was epic with double and triple hookups,” said Spring Valley angler Tony Santiago. “You could have caught them on anything.”

Santiago and his two boatmates ran into “wide open” fishing on 6-inch Huddleston swimbaits that morning and caught “lots of 5- and 6-pound fish” along with the “clones” that, according to just about everyone I talked to that say, averaged about 4 pounds each, and no one caught anything under 2. As a guy who fished San V a lot before the closure, Santiago said it was like a new lake with the dramatically different water level and that many of the points he was familiar with were now below as much as 70 feet of water.

IT’S A GOOD sign when you’re getting chunks before the boat is even untied. WON photo by Mike Stevens

There isn’t enough room in an issue of WON to get into what everyone used and where, but there were some common denominators spanning the majority of the reports. Along with a gaudy number of 100-fish days and 25-pound stringers, it sounded like 4-pounds accounted for most of the largemouth caught. With a lot of new cover with the influx of new water, a lot of tackle was donated to submerged trees.

Overall, the line I heard the most was along the lines of, “It was everything we were hoping it would be” along with confirmation that the launch process was seamless, even when it did take 2 hours to get everyone on the water. Reports from the days that followed indicated that the fish had started to feel the pressure a bit causing some anglers to go into drop-shot or Senko mode by early afternoon.

If there was a “miss” surrounding the re-opener, it was the lack of clarity regarding the rental boat situation. Many anglers thought once the Ticketmaster reservations were sold out that you couldn’t fish San V, and that was not the case. Once all the reservation boats were let in and launched, anyone could have rolled up and rented a boat. According to Rocky Mountain Recreation (the outfit that runs the concession) staffers, there is no connection between Ticketmaster and rental boats. The lack of that information in press releases kept it under wraps, and at 9 a.m. on opening day, I personally saw at least 20 rental boats still tied to the dock. Lake personnel were literally calling friends of theirs to come up, rent a boat and take advantage of the hot bite.

Moving forward, Rocky Mountain Recreation staffers said while you can’t reserve a rental boat, you are free to give them a call, let them know you are coming to rent a boat, and they will hang on to it until you get there. It’s also important to let staffers at the gate at the bottom of the hill know you are there to rent a boat.

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