Barrett Lake is a catch and release only reservoir located in a remote area approximately 35 miles east of downtown San Diego. The lake is open seasonally from May through September and because of its popularity, reservations are required to be purchased through Ticketmaster ahead of time.
Barrett is unique from the rest of the area’s reservoirs for a number of reasons. Unlike most of San Diego’s lakes, Barrett is dominated by the aggressive northern strain of largemouth bass (as opposed to the larger, but tougher to catch Florida strain bass). Additionally, Barrett Lake is strictly catch-and-release and anglers are only permitted to use artificial lures with barbless hooks – a restriction that is actively enforced by state fish and wildlife officers.
Barrett Lake was formed in 1922 with the completion of its dam, forming an important point where water could be controlled before flowing into Lower Otay Reservoir downstream. The lake is fed both by drainage from Morena Reservoir and Pine Creek.
For 72 years the reservoir was used solely as a water storage tank, but through receiving water from Morena had also received the local game fish; bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Because it was not open to recreation, it was never stocked with the Florida strain bass that the other lakes were in the 1960s. So it remains the last major population of northern strain largemouth bass in the county, though its likely integration between Florida and northern strain bass has occurred over the years.
In 1994 the city of San Diego secured a deal with the land owner to allow access for the public to the lake, under the term that all anglers will be escorted onto and off of the property. The lake was so popular when it opened – having been untouched for 72 years – that fishing permits were sold via a lottery system. Anglers were required to mail in postcards to the city of San Diego to enter into a drawing for a spot to fish. After a couple years the city switched to offering a set number of reservations per day to be sold through Ticketmaster, and that system is in place today.
Barrett Lake is located at 19886 Japatul Lyons Valley Rd. in Jamul, CA.
Barrett is open seasonally from May through September on a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday schedule. As required under the terms of the land owner who has allowed limited access to the lake by the public, all fishermen must be escorted on and off the property. Lake staff has predetermined entrance and exit times that they open the gates, so check ahead of your trip to find out when you need to be at the lake and when you need to be ready to leave. See our Barrett Forum for up to date information on times and fishing conditions.
Reservations and Fees
“Permits” to fish at Barrett Lake are provided through Ticketmaster as “reservations” and are limited. New for 2015, there are now two types of reservations available.
- Boat reservations – $80 plus applicable Ticketmaster fees
- Only 25 spots available per day
- Allow entry for up to 4 people, and a maximum of 2 vehicles
- Allows the use of 1 rental boat
- Shore/float tube fishing reservations – $20 plus applicable Ticketmaster fees
- Only 25 spots available per day
- Good for a single person
- May purchase an additional shore/float tube fishing spot for $20 at the time of reservation through Ticketmaster, or at the lake (cash only at the lake)
- Allows entry of only 1 vehicle
Reservation spots go on sale on the 2nd Tuesday of the month prior at 7:00 PM pacific time. So for example, tickets for the opening month of May go on sale on the 2nd Tuesday of April at 7:00 PM. That system continues until the close of season. The city imposes a limit of 1 reservation per household on the first day that reservations go on sale. After that, you can grab as many reservations for the month as you’d like.
- California Fish and Wildlife regulations require the use of “barbless” artificial lures” only while fishing for all species of fish, and that all fish must be released immediately after capture. They may not be retained in any fashion, or for any purpose, even if it is the angler’s true intent to release them later.
- Barbs on hooks can be bent down or broken off and filed.
- ALL BAITS that you have tied on your rods, no matter if they’re being used or not, MUST BE BARBLESS.
- CDFW officers inspect barbs with a “cloth test” running a piece of fabric over the barb – if it snags the barb, it is not considered barbless, and you’ll receive a stiff citation.
- All existing state and local fishing regulations are enforced, and a California State Fishing License is required for all anglers 16 years of age and older.
- Float tubers must meet all US Coast Guard safety regulations and waders must be worn at all times as direct body contact is not permitted at Barrett Lake.
We have a very active Barrett Forum here at sdfish.com where users post reports, tips, and other Barrett information regularly. We also have a Barrett Ticket Trader Forum for users to exchange or sell reservation spots.
Because of how aggressive the bass at Barrett can be, there is a wide variety of lures and tactics that work especially well there. Here is a list of some of the top producing baits the last few years;
- Senkos or other weightless stick baits, especially early in the year when bass are shallow
- Crankbaits and spinnerbaits that mimic threadfin shad
- Football jigs fished around deep rock piles and points where bass are feeding on crawdads
- Topwater lures in the summer can be great when bass are schooling and feeding actively on threadfin shad and silversides along the surface, especially in the early morning and late afternoon
Water Level Trend
The following chart displays Barrett Lake’s measured water level (in feet below capacity) at the gauge over the last 12 months. The first measurement of each month is used.