Lower Otay Lake

Lower Otay Lake is a large 1,100 surface acre reservoir in south San Diego County near Chula Vista, 20 miles southeast of downtown San Diego.

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  • Lower Otay is one of the top largemouth bass and blue catfish fisheries in Southern California, producing bass to over 18 pounds and catfish to nearly 100 pounds. Additionally, the lake has a healthy population of black crappie, bluegill and channel catfish.

    Lower Otay has a ton of fishable shoreline, but is not easily fished from shore. The lake is lined almost entirely with tules, limited shoreline access to small gaps in the tules or shoreline areas adjacent to the launch ramp and boat dock.

    As one of the top bass lakes in San Diego, it is a popular tournament lake and receives heavy pressure during the tournament season.


    Construction of the dam at Lower Otay was completed in 1897 and formed the 3rd reservoir built within the last 10 years in San Diego County. Unfortunately, an oversight during construction meant the lake was built without a means of shedding excess water. In 1916, heavy rains filled the reservoir beyond capacity and caused the dam to crumble under pressure. Construction of a new dam began quickly and the reservoir was recreated 2 years later.

    In 1990 the U.S. Olympic Committee held an official groundbreaking at the future site of the Olympic Training Center located on the lake’s shore. As such, the lake is now also used as a training facility for the U.S. Olympic rowing teams.

    Operating Schedule

    The lake is open for fishing and boating sunrise to sunset year-round. Private boats, kayaks, float tubes, and canoes are permitted, but must pay applicable fees for launch. Concession services are operated by Rocky Mountain Recreation, and their schedule varies seasonally. Rental boats are available through the concession on days that they’re open.

    Daily fishing permits are required, as are California State Fishing Licenses for all anglers 16 years of age or older.

    Water Level Trend

    The following chart shows measured water levels (feet below capacity) over the previous 12 months.

    Lower Otay Fishing Records

    Black Crappie3.371992
    Blue Catfish98.452007
    Bullhead (Brown)3.251982
    Channel Catfish33.431983 
    Green Sunfish0.501977 
    Largemouth Bass18.751980Bob Eberly
    Redear Sunfish1.81998
    White Catfish7.751983
    White Crappie2.181976

    Lower Otay Lake News