Lake Jennings Fishing: How to Catch Bass, Catfish & Trout

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Lake Jennings is just 26 miles east of San Diego and offers a well-managed fishery regularly stocked with catfish and trout and known to put out some big largemouth bass despite its small size.

Bluegill, redear sunfish, and at times, hybrid striped bass also have been pulled from its clear water.

Besides the year-round fishing, Lake Jennings is a very pretty spot and nice and close to home, making it a great place to bring the family for the day or the entire weekend.

Everyone is likely to enjoy the camping, hiking and playgrounds in addition to catching several types of fish.

Lake Jennings Bass Fishing

As with many Southern California lakes, Lake Jennings is known for producing some huge largemouth bass, including a 16.58-pound lake record.

The chance of catching one of these double-digit lake monsters is what brings many anglers to the waters of Lake Jennings.

This lake is only 85 acres, but a boat is still handy to fully access all of the bass fishing opportunities. However, hiking trails offer access to bank fishing throughout the campground, so you still have a good chance to catch fish from the shoreline.

Using the electronics on a boat to find rock piles, brush piles or steep drop offs will be the quickest way to locate bass in the summer months, when they tend to be in a bit deeper water.

If you’re looking for bass in the shallows, your odds will be better in the spring when they move in to spawn. They often are back shallow to feed in the cooling waters of fall before winter sets in. Winter usually finds them back in deeper deeper water.

Lure Suggestions

Because Lake Jennnings is a clear lake, sticking with natural looking lures and baits will be best for catching bass. 

A Drop shot, Ned rig, and Texas rig with natural colored soft plastics are bound to get you a bite a two. Spinnerbaits, jigs, swimbaits and buzzbaits are other lures to test out when the bass are more aggressive.

Bigger bass often feed on bluegill and other fish, so matching your lures to those fish patterns will increase your chances of hooking into a monster.

Looking for the very best bass waters around (including some San Diego County hot spots)? Read about the Best Largemouth Bass Fishing Lakes in Southern California.

Then it’s time to boost your odds with the ideas you’ll find in Bass Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Lake Jennings Catfish

Channel catfish are stocked throughout the summer for anglers to catch at Lake Jennings, and the catfishing can be very good here.

Given the right conditions, channel catfish can regularly grow to more than 25 pounds. They are fun to catch and are a tasty meal to eat!

The true monsters of the lake are blue catfish. They can grow to incredibles sizes of more than 70 pounds. Blue catfish fight hard and are extremely fun to catch from the bank or boat.

Thanks to the presence of the big blues and frequently stocked channels, Lake Jennings scored an honorable mention on our list of the Best Catfish Fishing Lakes and Rivers in California. Click the link to find other great spots for whisker fish.

Where and When to Catch Catfish

Fishing for catfish from a boat is often most effective, especially if you have electronics to find a channel or steep bank.

Catfish often use channels as fish highways to move from one area of the lake to another. Dropping a line along a channel is often the best way to get a bite. 

Catfish feed most heartily during the night and early morning hours, but day-use access to the lake is often closed during that time frame. On typical days at Lake Jennings, you’d do best to fish in as low light conditions as allowed.

While normally a day use fishery, occasionally Lake Jennings has hosted special night fishing times in the summer for anglers to target catfish. They start in the late afternoons and wrap up a immediately before midnight.

Boat rentals and private boat launching aren’t available during nighttime fishing. No worries though, catfish often move closer to shore to prowl for food, putting them in easier reach of bank anglers.

Check the website mentioned below for details about possible night fishing opportunities.

How to Catch Catfish

Typical bass gear will be fine for the most common and best eating-sized catfish, usually under 5 pounds. However, you will need heavy-duty fishing gear to boost your odds of catching the biggest catfish.

Shrimp and allowable cut bait or live fish are outstanding baits for catfish. Check the rules ahead of time because using fish for bait typically comes with restrictions.

If you’re in a pinch, catfish have been caught on nightcrawlers and hotdogs many times. Of course, the ‘crawlers also will attract the attention of almost every other fish in the lake.

Find more bait ideas, tackle set-ups and other fish-catching info at Catfish Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Lake Jennings Trout Fishing

The cool, clear water of Lake Jennings means trout can survive during much of the year.

Rainbow trout are stocked between November and early April, and trout fishing here will be best when the lake water is cool and it has been fairly recently stocked.

Anglers will still continue to pick up some holdover trout in late spring, and possibly now and then into early summer. Fishing deep during hotter weather likely will be the key to your success because trout will move into the coldest well-oxygenated water they can find.

Catching higher numbers of trout will get less likely the further past the main trout fishing season you get, but other types of fishing will be going strong by then.

Rainbow trout are not only tasty but are healthy to eat when cooked properly. 

How to Catch Trout

To catch trout, use light tackle. Trout have excellent eyesight, so you need to use a light line. PowerBait, small jigs and Super Dupers are among the best best baits and lures to catch stocked trout. 

Lake Jennings offers a free basic guide for the best method for catching trout. Our own free fishing guide will expand your options and catches further. See Trout Fishing: How-To Techniques and Tips.

If the weather is cool, trout may be caught in fairly shallow water, especially in the mornings if it will warm up substantially in the daytime.

They are likely to move deeper as the sun rises higher in the sky. If you catch one, you are bound to catch another because they often congregate together and hold in similar areas.

You may have to experiment with the best colors and baits to use for the day. Asking the ranger on duty will help you get an idea of what you should be using.

Would you like to know where to find the Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Lakes in California?

More Fishing Opportunities

Lake Jennings offers even more fishing opportunities besides bass fishing, catfish fishing, and trout fishing. That’s part of the reason why this lake is so unique.

Hybrid Striped Bass

Hybrids were stocked in the lake for several years, but they may not currently be available. Watch for updated reports.

Where present, hybrid striped bass (often known as wipers) can grow very large and provide a good fight!

Lake Elsinore, about an hour and a half to the north, is probably a better bet for wiper fishing at this writing.

Bluegill and Sunfish

Bringing your family out to fish means you will need to catch fish. A fish that most kids love to catch are bluegill. They are abundant and easy to catch with a hook, sinker, bobber and pieces of nightcrawler or a red worm or mealworm. 

Bluegill congregate around shallow grass or another underwater cover in the summer, making them easy to locate and catch.

The lake also has a population of red-ear sunfish, which are similar in their habits and fall for similar techniques.

More: Fishing for Bluegill and Sunfish: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Planning Your Trip

A fishing boat near the shore of Lake Jennings in Southern California.
Photo by SherryVSmith (Depositphotos)

Lake Jennings is located on the eastern side of metropolitan San Diego area, in one of the prettiest parks in the region. It’s located on Lake Jennings Road just north of Interstate 8, only about a half hour or so from downtown San Diego.

It’s close to several other popular San Diego County fishing holes, most notably El Capitan Reservoir and San Vicente Reservoir.

The camping, hiking, and fishing offered at Lake Jennings make it a superb destination to bring the family for the weekend.

The campground is well-appointed with sites that range from basic tent to full-service RV and tipi sites.

You can also visit the lake for a picnic if you only want to make a day trip out of your visit, but note the somewhat limited day-use hours.

Special events such as weddings can be held at the lake. They can accommodate up to 600 people. 

Bank & Boat Access

A boat ramp is open to the public for a small daily fee. You can rent a boat or kayak to explore the lake.

There is a bait shop and other amenities, or shopping areas are a short drive away.

The Helix Water District operates the lake to provide drinking water to communities east of San Diego. The district does not allow water-contact sports including paddle boards and float tubes. Swimming is prohibited.

There is a “no wake” speed limit (10 mph) enforced on the entire lake.

More Information

Boating rules, various fees, hours of operation, special events, and other important information is on the Lake Jennings website.

Find More Fishing Spots in San Diego County