Complete Guide to Fishing at Lake Poway

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Lake Poway is a small reservoir that offers incredible fishing opportunities near the middle of San Diego County.

You can catch bass, catfish and bluegill year-round at this community lake.

Rainbow trout are stocked when the water temperatures are low enough to support them, and this is often among the better winter trout lakes in Southern California. 

On the flip side, catfish are nicely planted during warmer weather, so summertime catfish fishing also is quite good.

Poway reservoir offers more than fishing. It’s a spectacular place to bring your family for a day of fun at the recreational area surrounding the lake. 

Bass Fishing

Despite its small size, Lake Poway is home to lunker-sized largemouth bass. The lake record is well over 17 pounds.

Bass must be 12 inches in length to keep, with a maximum of five fish. During the spawning months of the year, you are NOT allowed to keep bass. 

To catch bass here, like many other bass fishing locations, you will need good quality equipment. Your lure selection will depend on the time of year and the time of day you are fishing. 

Bass Fishing by the Seasons

In the spring, bass move shallow to spawn. They are aggressive when protecting their nest so that most lures will work, but jigs or soft plastics in bluegill patterns that you can drag near their nest are best.

Swimbaits that look like bluegill will also work well because bass spend much of their time defending their nests from bluegill. 

In the summer, bass move to deeper water. To catch them down there will require more subtle presentations, such as a wacky rig or drop shot.

You will still find some bass shallow, especially during the early summer months and in lower light conditions. So a spinnerbait or buzzbait can also be great lures to throw.

During the fall, squarebill crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits and jerkbaits work exceptionally well in shallow to deep water.

Bass are beginning to feed for the coming winter months. During this time, they are very aggressive and will feed on just about anything.

The winter months bring a slow down to most people’s bass fishing. However, bass will still bite in the cold.

Many anglers will downsize their baits and move to deeper water. Umbrella rigs, small jerkbaits and flukes are great lures to start with during the winter.

As with most rules, there’s always an exception.

Large swimbaits that look like freshly stocked rainbow trout might attract the attention of larger bass.

Largemouth to at least 12 pounds have been caught using this tactic during the late winter, as bass are starting to stir and feed before their spawning season, and stocked trout make an easy and substantial meal.

Catfish Fishing

Lake Poway is home to giant catfish. Channel catfish as well as blue catfish call this lake home, and more are stocked to join them.

You can only keep five catfish here, no matter the species. There is no length limit for catfish.

To catch bigger catfish, you will need strong fishing gear. These fish can easily grow over 20l pounds, and they are strong fighters.

To catch catfish, it’s a good idea to Carolina-rig your sinker, swivel and hook. Catfish love to twist and roll, so the swivel will save you from significant frustrations after you catch one.

Catfish will eat cut-bait or live bait. Be sure to read up on the rules for these baits as there are some restrictions.

To be safe, you can use chicken liver, shrimp or night-crawlers. Or purchase your bait from the tackle shop at the lake and you know you’re good to go.

Catfish often will congregate in deep areas and use channels to move around the lake. Begin at the locations to have the best chance at finding fish, especially in bright light.

Catfish bite best in low light and in the dark, using their keen sense of smell to locate food on or near the bottom.

Fortunately, Lake Poway often hosts multiple night fishing times during much of the summer, often Friday and Saturday nights between the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

With lots of feeding fish around, those special events are definitely worth putting on the calendar.

Trout Fishing

Rainbow trout are stocked at Lake Poway as the water temperature drops to sustainable levels for these cold-loving fish.

The trout season here has typically started with the first planting of these fish, often just after Thanksgiving in late November. Additional plants every few weeks tend to keep the fishing good into the spring.

You can keep four trout per day, with NO catch and release. 

Trout require light tackle because they have excellent eyesight. Smaller hooks and sinkers and light lines will give you the best opportunity to catch a rainbow trout. 

Using small lures, such as Super Dupers, spinners and tiny crankbaits are bound to get you a bite. PowerBait, artificial salmon eggs and earthworms also make good baits for trout. 

Trout often will congregate in groups, sometimes around cover. In the morning, they may be shallow, but as the sun rises, trout will move to deeper water. Getting an early start may improve your odds of catching trout from the bank.

Bluegill Fishing

Bluegill are most active during the spring and summer months, when the water temperatures are on the warmer side.

While a majority of bluegill are small, you can keep 10. We recommend the bluegill you take home are at least the size of an adult hand, giving them enough meat to be worth keeping. Release smaller ones to fight another day.

Bluegill don’t require much as far as fishing equipment. They can be caught using a bobber, small hook and maybe a pinch of weight.

The best bait for bluegill is worms. However, they will eat a variety of natural baits including mealworms and crickets. Small lures and artificial flies and poppers can be fun ways to catch bluegill.

They can be found in the shallows around the cover. Often, there are many more nearby when you catch one, so cast back in the same spot once you get a bite.

Pick up more bluegill fishing tips in our simple guide.

Planning Your Trip

Lake Poway is in the city of Poway, about 40 minutes northeast of San Diego and half that coming down Interstate 15 from Escondido.

Some sources say the surface of the lake is about 60 acres when full, while others peg it at a diminutive 35 acres. Either way, it offers lots of fishing in a small package.

Lake Poway offers many more opportunities to spend the day other than fishing.

At last check, the park is open Wednesdays to Sundays year-round, starting at 6 a.m. and closing at sunset, except for the aforementioned special events like night fishing.

A playground is available for the kids, and a pavilion is available for large events. 

Hiking trails and picnic tables are accessible to the public. Dogs are not allowed on boats or the shore of the lake to protect water quality.

For more information, such as rules, fees and events schedule, visit the Lake Poway website.

The lake and immediate recreation area are surrounded by the larger Clyde E. Rexrode Wilderness Area.

Bank and Boat Access

You can fish from the bank all around the lake. You can rent pedal boats and small fishing boats from the lake’s concessionaire. (Check ahead to make sure it’s open.)

Private watercraft are NOT allowed on the lake, due in large part to ongoing efforts to keep invasive and destructive quagga mussels from taking hold here as they have in other California waters.

Boat rentals are available and will allow you to get to more fishing spots, but bank fishing is a pretty good option for many species as well.

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