Lake Wohlford Fishing: Catch Bass, Trout & More

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Lake Wohlford is a very productive fishing lake near Escondido.

Bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill and trout are all present in the lake’s waters. There is also a rare opportunity to bowfish for carp, with the proper permits. 

Wohlford Lake doesn’t have many other activities available besides fishing. However, the fishing is spectacular for a lake of this size and draws anglers from around Southern California.

Bass Fishing

When a lake can produce a largemouth bass over 19 pounds and still be considered somewhat “off the radar” compared to more famous bass fishing lakes in Southern California, that’s impressive.

Lake Wohlford did precisely that by producing one of the biggest bass to date in the 1980s. It now consistently produces fish over the 12-pound mark.

To catch one of these giants, you will need quality bass fishing gear and a little bit of luck. The proper lure presentation and location never hurt anyone either. 

Your best chance to catch a lunker-sized bass is in the spring during the pre-spawn.

This time of year is when they are at their heaviest, aggressively protecting their nest. You can cast just about any lure near their nest, and they will bite it to carry it off.

You might have to go to deeper water in the summer and use finesse presentations such as a wacky rig or drop shot. Lake Wohlford is known for its rock piles; bass will congregate around those piles.

The fall means bass are becoming more aggressive, and your amount of lure choices begin to grow once again.

During the winter, trout are stocked in the lake, and the big bass aren’t afraid to eat pan-sized trout. Using a trout swimbait could be your best chance to hook into a monster largemouth during the colder months.

Crappie Fishing

Crappie are a fun fish to catch because they fight well, but they are even better on the dinner plate!

While crappie rarely grow much over 2 pounds, as long as they are as large as your hand or the legal length limit, a mess of them will make an excellent dinner. 

You can catch crappie using small jigs, small crankbaits, small spinnerbaits and live minnows.

In the spring, crappie move shallow to spawn and then move to cover found deeper offshore the rest of the year. The key to catching crappie is finding the best cover at the proper depth.

Catfish Fishing

Catfish are another type of fish that most people enjoy eating and for a good reason. Catfish are fun to catch because they are powerful fish that can grow to incredible sizes.

To catch larger catfish, you will need heavy-duty fishing gear. Catfish eat anything they can get into their mouths.

Chicken liver, cut mackerel, worms and other natural choices are good bait options. Commercially prepared “stink baits” are another way to go.

There are two different species of catfish in Lake Wohlford, the popular channel catfish and the less common blue catfish.

The species look and act similar, but there are subtle differences to tell them apart. The difference most anglers care about is that the blue cats grow much larger than channel cats.

Both species will assemble in deep holes, especially during the bright light of day.

They use channels to move from one area of the lake to another. Setting up above a deep hole or channel means you are fishing the spots catfish are most likely to be found.

Bluegill Fishing

Bluegill are found in the shallows around grass and other cover, especially in the warmer seasons.

They are a common food source for the bigger fish in the lake but catching them isn’t very difficult during the summer.

To catch bluegill, you should use worms, insects such as crickets, often fished under a float near weed lines, under docks or around other shallow cover. Small artificial lures and flies also are among the best techniques for catching bluegill and other sunfish species.

When you catch one, throw your bait back to the same spot, and you’re sure to catch another.

Trout Fishing

During the winter, often starting in December, rainbow trout are stocked at Lake Wohlford when the cooling water temperature will support them. This draws many anglers to the lake during the winter months.

Trout are fun to catch but at times can be finicky.

They have excellent eyesight, so you will need to keep your tackle small. This is part of the fun of catching trout. They fight well when you’re using ultralight fishing gear.

The best baits are PowerBait and artificial salmon eggs, while lures such as Super Dupers and small spinners also will attract hard strikes from more aggressive trout.


To bowfish for carp, you will need a permit from the lakes park rangers. Only a few permits are handed out, and the special rules and regulations are strictly enforced.

Be sure to check out the Wohlford Lake website for up-to-date information on the bowfishing rules.

Planning Your Trip

Lake Wohlford is located in northern San Diego County, about a 20-minute drive northeast of Escondido and just east of Dixon Lake.

There is a cafe on the north end of the lake to grab a bite to eat, but there is very little to do besides fish at the lake. There is no swimming, camping or hiking available.

The lake has a unique operating schedule. While it’s open every day for much of the year, after Labor Day it’s only open on weekends for the majority of the fall season, when fishing for many species is the slowest anyway.

Double-check to ensure Wohlford Lake will be open when you plan on visiting. 

Bank and Boat Access

There is no trail to walk around the lake, but you can walk the shore and fish just about anywhere from the bank if you’re feeling adventurous. 

You CANNOT launch private boats at this time, and that includes a ban on kayaks, float tubes and all types of watercraft, due to efforts to prevent infestation by invasive mussels.

You can only use the boats available to rent if you want to fish away from the shoreline.

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