Published in Lakes

Lake Cuyamaca

    Lake Cuyamaca

    Additional Info

    • Managed by: Lake Cuyamaca Park and Recreation District
    • Surface acres: 110
    • Facilities: Snack Bar, Tackle Shop, Restrooms, Boat Ramp, Picnic Tables, Campground, Fishing Dock(s), Fish Cleaning Station
    • Float tubes: Allowed
    • State license: Required
    • Fish species: Black crappie, Bluegill, Bullhead, Channel catfish, Largemouth bass, Rainbow trout, Smallmouth bass, Sturgeon

    Cuyamaca is perhaps the most beautiful lake in San Diego County, set in the high elevations of the Cuyamaca Mountains. Due to the colder climate of Cuyamaca, the lake is ideal for year-around trout fishing with over 45,000 lbs. of trout stocked annually. On the average, trout tend to be small (3/4 - 1 lb avg) but are often caught over 4 lbs. Cuyamaca is also the only lake in the county which fly fishing is widely practiced.

    Besides trout Cuyamaca has a decent population of largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and bluegill. Cuyamaca is also home to two species of fish rare to San Diego County; Sturgeon and Smallmouth Bass. Sturgeon and Smallmouth were first introduced in 1995-96 by the Dept. of Fish and Game. Neither fish species is regularly caught, but they do still exist.

    thumb_cuyamaca-mapLocation / Directions

    This small 110 acre lake sits at 4,620 feet above sea level in the mountains to the east of San Diego and experiences all 4 seasons unlike any other lake in the county. From San Diego, take Interstate 8 about 40 miles east to Hwy. 79, then go north 10 miles.


    The Dam at Cuyamaca is the second oldest in California and was completed in 1888 to store water which was then piped down to San Diego in wooden flumes to help quench a desperate need for water in San Diego. 3 years later in 1891 several species of fish were stocked, and the newly formed reservoir became a mountain fishery. Over the next few decades the lake battled off and on with dry spells and water shortages and the fishery was completely wiped out towards the end of world war II. The lake remained unused until the mid-60's when a new organization, the Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District, was formed and through different projects created a more permanent infrastructure for the lake. A dike was built to create a smaller yet deeper lake which could resist drought better. The larger part of the lake only holds water during very wet seasons.

    Fishing Classes

    The lake staff offers free fishing classes every Saturday at 10 AM., with fly and bass fishing classes offered periodically during the appropriate time of year. A free guided nature walk around the 3.5 mile trail surrounding the lake is offered on the first Sunday each month at 1:00 PM. A Youth Fishing Program is also offered at Lake Cuyamaca.

    Facilities & Camping Information

    There is a store and restaurant at the lake with bait and tackle, food and drinks etc. For campers there are a few hookups for RV's at the lake, and many camping spots and more RV hookups down the road a couple miles at Cuyamaca State Park. There is a paved launch ramp for private boats, a boat dock, and a jetty for fishermen. Trails lead to and from the lake and cover miles of mountainous terrain for hikers.

    There are also several lakeview condos offered at Cuyamaca for $150 per night and up.

    Hours, Fees & Boating Information

    The park is open everyday from 6:00 AM to sunset year-around. Private boats 10 feet and over can launch at the paved launch ramp. There is no horsepower limit, but the speed limit of 10 MPH is strictly enforced. Canoes and kayaks are only allowed during the summer months. Float tubes can be used during the last 3 hours of daylight on weekends and holidays, and all day during the week. Float tubers require waders, US Coast Guard approved floatation device, 12 square inch orange patch 12" above water, and tubers must stay within 400 ft of shore. Motor boats and row boats are available for rent. During the summer months rental canoes and paddle boats are available. Boats are rented on a first come first served basis, no reservations. For questions call (760) 765-0515.

    Last modified on Saturday, 06 September 2014 01:35