The opening week of San Vicente Reservoir was a 5 day celebration of freshwater fishing in San Diego. It started on Wednesday, the day before the opener, when Todd Wood pulled his boat and truck through the gates more than 24 hours before the lake opened to secure the first spot in line. From that point forward, through Monday – and really, the party is still going…San Vicente was bass fishing’s version of Woodstock.
The lake’s reopening was something anglers have anticipated for over 8 years, even before the lake closed on Labor Day in 2008 for the Dam Raise Project, but ramped up tremendously when the announcement was first made on August 24th here on SDFish, that the lake was finally scheduled to reopen on Thursday, September 22nd.
I think the majority of us knew exactly what was in store in terms of the fishery that was awaiting us – huge numbers of quality bass to about 6 pounds, naive to fishing pressure and eagerly awaiting anything that even remotely resembled a meal. Opening day boat launch tickets were being bought and sold for as much as $750 (confirmed) – there was going to be only one opener, and everyone knew it was going to be epic. And it was. But more on that later.
What absolutely impressed me the most about the opening week was how smoothly the city of San Diego’s Reservoirs and Recreation Program Office handled the entire week. Nearly every angler I talked to, starting with the first person in line, Todd Wood, made it a point to emphasize how well the city’s staff was handling all of the pressure surrounding this monumental task of organizing the most anticipated event in San Diego freshwater fishing history.
But it started well ahead of last Wednesday. Lori Felchlin, a former city lakes reservoir keeper at Miramar, who now holds down the fort in the City Lakes and Recreation Office on sight below the dam at San Vicente, has been tirelessly answering questions and providing information on our forums ever since the news broke that the lake was reopening. She was blitzed with inquiries, and was still able to get out ahead of them to make sure everyone knew what to expect of the opening week. And it worked, anglers for the most part knew exactly what to do, and they took it seriously.
The star of the week though was San Vicente Dam Keeper Larry Rodrigues, who was front and center the entire week, herding anglers in and out of the various designated staging areas and organizing a small army of staff to keep things orderly. Of the dozen or so staff members I encountered throughout the week, all were well prepared, friendly and fair. The entire operation went off without a hitch with little to no impact on the surrounding neighborhood – something none of us envisioned to be possible.
Also to be commended was Rocky Mountain Recreation, who hold the concessionaire contract at San Vicente and provide the rental boat fleet. Rocky Mountain also took the task seriously, and provided an adequate number of rental boats to handle the demand – even a surplus, despite the late notice. Surprisingly, Rocky Mountain Rec first heard that San Vicente was going to reopen through our article on SDFish!
Now, as promised, let’s talk about the fishing.
Thursday was absolutely incredible. In terms of the sheer number of quality bass caught, I’ve never seen anything like it. Previously, the most hyped freshwater fishing event in southern California was the opener of Diamond Valley Lake in 2003. For those that fished the DVL opening day and San Vicente’s re-opening day, there was no comparison. San Vicente was better, hands down. It rivaled the good days at El Salto, Mexico’s fabled bass paradise – some say it exceeded that even. Absolutely world class, as good as it gets, bass fishing right in town.
I fished the opener with longtime friend John Kerr, a legend in San Diego bass fishing circles. John concluded at the end of the day, “it was the most quality fish I have caught in one day, a day I will never forget.”
We were joined in the boat by John’s son Jordan and Jordan’s girlfriend Mitzi. The four of us caught bass 2, 3, even 4 at a time for nearly 11 hours straight – from 7 am to 6 pm.
Our heaviest fish seemed to come early in the day, while still fishing shallow. My 4th or 5th fish of the day, a swimbait fish, was the biggest I had all trip and was in the 8 pound range and came out of about 6 feet of water. But those fish quickly realized something different was going on that day, unlike every other day of their lives, there were hundreds of boats and fishermen, and lots of the things moving around in the water weren’t actually food.
While the morning was good, things really picked up when we started fishing deeper water for the bass that hadn’t been shell-shocked by all the alien boat traffic. Those fish were immune to the fishing pressure, and biting full speed the entire day. They were stacked on deep points in 30-60 feet of water in the flooded trees and chaparral brush, as evidenced by this underwater shot from the Water Wolf HD Camera (on sale at Amazon right now for $120).
I’ve been asked how many fish we caught, I honestly have no idea. There was never a lull in action.
The fishing was absolutely tremendous for everyone that I talked to and heard from, I haven’t heard from anyone that was disappointed. Actual results were relative to each angler’s skill and experience – but every angler had great fishing compared to their usual results.
Every day following seemed to get a little tougher, though fishing was absolutely tremendous each and every day. The toughest part of fishing 4 of the 5 days over the course of the opening week was not allowing myself to be too jaded by the day before, or comparing any of the other days with Thursday.
As predicted, there weren’t many BIG bass caught. The lake is stuff with 3-6 pounders. Expecting anything bigger than that will lead to disappointment. There are bigger fish mixed in, but they’re few and far between. I didn’t see ANY evidence of a 10 pounder caught, though those rumors existed, but legitimate photos never surfaced.
If you didn’t get to go opening week, and are still looking for some confidence baits to tie on, check out the article “10 baits to have ready for San Vicente” – those 10 baits ALL performed. My top performer for the week was the bubba rig with a watermelon seed baby brush hog. That rig allowed us to fish deep enough and cover enough water to maximize results. But if I wanted to catch them on a topwater lure all day long, that opportunity exists as well. So, fish the way you want. If your desire is to get the most quality fish you can, target those deeper fish. But if you’d rather catch 1 topwater bass instead of 4 or 5 worm bass, fish a topwater. The fishing is good enough still to be whatever you want it to be.
All in all, San Vicente lived up to the hype. The lake is the real deal. The facilities are first-class and unlike anything I’ve seen before in southern California.
San V, it’s great to have you back! Until next time…