Fishing at Lake Miramar: Bass, Trout & Catfish

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If you want a shot at catching one of the biggest largemouth bass in the world, then Lake Miramar is the place for you.

The modestly sized Miramar is one of a handful of storied Southern California fishing lakes where some of the biggest bass in the word have been caught. The lake record just shy of 21 pounds.

Not only does it offer world-class bass fishing, trout are also stocked during the winter, giant catfish lurk below the waterline, and panfish thrive at this popular fishing spot, also commonly known as Miramar Reservoir.

Only minutes away from downtown San Diego, Lake Miramar is the perfect oasis for a quick day trip with the family. Even if some of them don’t fish, there’s also hiking, picnicking and boating.

As great as the other recreational opportunities are at the lake, many people visit the lake for the chance to catch a fish of a lifetime in the 274-acre reservoir.

Bass Fishing

Proven to be capable of producing 20-pound-plus largemouth bass, Lake Miramar offers SoCal anglers and vacationers world-class bass fishing opportunities right down the road.

In fact, we’ve included Lake Miramar among the very Best Largemouth Bass Fishing Lakes in Southern California.

But let’s be honest: Catching one of these monster bass won’t be easy in this small reservoir. The crystal clear water makes sight fishing easier in the spring, which means the fish can easily see you as well.

Your best chance to catch big bass is to fish from a boat or kayak. You will need to find depth changes, underwater structure, or where the baitfish are located, all easier from out on the water than standing on the shore.

Depending on the time of year and day, bass might be off the end of points, in the back of coves, or suspended towards the middle of the lake.

Spring and sometimes fall bring bass in shallow. Summer heat and winter chill tends to make the deeper water a better option.

How to Catch Bass

It’s common for anglers to use giant swimbaits, drop shot rigs, deep diving crankbaits and soft plastics.

Big trout swimbaits work best during the winter months after trout have been stocked in the lake, because the biggest bass suddenly have a smorgasbord to feed on. Try fishing those lures like they’re injured trout to get those slower-moving wintertime bass interested.

You can use drop shot rigs and soft plastics work year-round. A deep-diving crankbait works best during the summer.

Bass fishing is best from a boat. Having a boat not only gives you more options on where to fish, but it also allows you to “see,” using the electronics, where the fish are located.

There are some opportunities to catch these fish from shore, but you’ll likely have to work a bit harder at it.

Pick up some new tricks (and old favorites) with our guide, Bass Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Trout Fishing

Rainbow trout are stocked in Lake Miramar when the water conditions can support the trout. This typically occurs from about November to March, because trout need cold water to survive.

Trout can be caught using several different techniques.

Using PowerBait with a small hook and light tackle is one of the most common bait-fishing tactics. Other baits including nightcrawlers, salmon eggs and more will also work well on hatchery reared trout.

Still-fishing with bait is the easiest and often most effective way to catch trout from the bank and also works from a boat.

Bank anglers may also want to cast weighted spinners or spoons to aggressive trout.

If you are fishing from a boat, using a small spoon or a spinner while trolling is another common way to catch trout, because it works so well. Adding an attractor like a set of lake trolls ahead of your trolled lure or a nightcrawler is a tried and true way to boost your trout catch.

Trout have incredible eyesight, so keep your line on the light side (4- or 6-pound test is usually good) and use lures or baits that are fairly modest in size.

Stocked trout are often found in groups, so you are bound to catch another if you catch one.

Early in the day, they will feed in the shallows, but as the sun rises, they will usually find deeper water. At times they will cling to underwater structures for protection from the monster bass.

Catfish Fishing

Other fish that grow to tremendous sizes in Miramar Lake are catfish, both channel catfish and blue catfish.

Blues are the true monsters, traditionally grow to a much larger size than channel cats, and that is the case in this reservoir. While the lake record here isn’t close to the 100-pounders caught in a few other Southern California lakes, the potential is there.

Catfish are opportunistic feeders, so using allowable cut or live baits, shrimp, nightcrawlers and other high-scent baits will all work to catch one.

You will want to use strong fishing gear if you plan on landing a big catfish. The 4-pound test on your ultralight trout rod probably won’t cut it

You will likely catch channel catfish right alongside blue catfish.

They will congregate in deep holes and steep depth changes in search of food, but will often move into shallower water at night to hunt for food.

Catfish use channels as pathways to move about the lake. If you set up along one of these pathways, your chances of catching a catfish exponentially grow. 

While you can catch catfish from the shore, using a boat will yield the best results.

More Fishing Opportunities

While the chance to catch a bass of a lifetime draws many anglers to Miramar Reservoir, there are plenty of other fishing opportunities.

Bluegill/Sunfish

If spending hours searching for a record-sized largemouth with lots of casting for fewer catches isn’t your type of fishing, try catching bluegill and sunfish.

Typically once you find them, they are non-stop action using nightcrawlers and a bobber. Fishing for bluegill is the perfect way to introduce anyone to fishing.

Bluegill are found in the shallows and around cover during the summer. If they are large enough, bluegill make a good meal.

Lake Miramar also has a population of redear sunfish, which like bluegill are eager biters and surprisingly good fighters.

More: Fishing for Bluegill and Sunfish: Simple Techniques and Tips

Crappie

Crappie are another fish that make an excellent meal and are fun to catch.

They can be a little trickier than bluegill to catch, in part because they are harder to find and like to prey on lures that look like small minnows.

But they are schooling fish and can also be non-stop action once you have found them.

Crappie are mainly caught using small jigs and shiner minnows, though be aware there are restrictions on the types of live bait you can use.

During spring, they will move shallow to spawn around shoreline structure including submerged branches, aquatic plants and pilings.

In the summer and for much of the rest of the year, they will move deep and school around brush piles and other underwater structures.

Like the bluegill and red-ear sunfish, crappie tend to be a smaller game fish, topping out at close to 2 pounds but smaller fish being more common.

More: Best Crappie Fishing Lakes in California and Crappie Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Common Carp

Carp are often ignored but can put up an amazing fight, and there are carp here that can top 20 pounds and fight like mad.

Bait anglers often use canned corn, though bread balls and other baits also will work. Some anglers even go after these “freshwater tarpon” on a fly rod.

Planning Your Trip

Even if you’re not an angler, Miramar Reservoir is a great place to visit.

For starters, it’s easily reached for most residents throughout San Diego County, in the Scripps Ranch community right off Interstate 15. It’s only about 20 minutes from either San Diego or Escondido.

With the availability of hiking, cycling, kayaking, boating, and picnicking, you are bound to have a spectacular adventure. You can bring your dog, but it must be leashed and is not allowed to swim or ride on boats.

Because this is a water supply reservoir for San Diego, people also cannot swim here. Ground fires, glass containers and camping also are prohibited, but Lake Miramar is a great spot for a day trip.

Bank and Boat Access

You can walk around the 4 miles of shoreline fairly well, but casting isn’t always easy due to thick tule growth in many areas.

Boats are an advantage in most lakes, but they are a huge help here.

You can bring your boat and launch from the ramp for a fee, or rental boats are available when the marina is open. There is a five-mile per hour speed limit on the lake because it is a small lake and activities like water skiing aren’t allowed.

There also is a modest fishing permit fee.

More Information

For updated information, see the lake vendor’s website or the city of San Diego’s Miramar Reservoir website.