By Capt. Bill Schaefer

SAN DIEGO—Lake Barrett, the payto-play lake in San Diego’s East County area, is really feeling the pressure of the California drought. In surface acres, the lake is about one-third of its normal size. All of the Pine Creek and Houser Arm spots are gone or too shallow to fish. Yet all those bass now pushed into a lake with far less of its usual water capacity will mean great fishing for a while. Opening day here saw fishermen catching anywhere from 15 to 50 fish, and some landing even more. Some float tube anglers were not checked to see

Joel King with Lake Barrett Bass
Joel King scored this Lake Barrett bass on a white spinnerbait tossed towards fish breaking in open water. (BILL SCHAEFER)

how many bass they caught.

Barrett is now more of an open lake, with rock piles and smaller coves sprinkled around. The northern bass have come off their spawn and are already in packs chasing shad around the lake. You can fish almost any area of the lake and the fish will come by eventually. Open water will also reveal tuna-type boils as the bass corral the shad and attack them.

There is no brush in the water and the shore is checkered with large cracks from the drying mud. Please be careful if you get out and walk the banks. Use rocks to walk on any chance you get, and be wary of rattlesnakes – it’s time for them to show.

The hot bait has been a white or white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait. You can throw it along the shore or in open water. I sampled the lake on a press trip a week before the opening and the spinnerbait was truly the best bait because of the bass keying on the shad. The old reliable Yamamoto Senko and Ika also scored well.

I also threw a Matt Lures bluegill and scored a little better quality of bass up to 4 pounds. The thing about this lake is that you can throw almost any lure and do well. Even fly fishermen can really enjoy a great day of bass fishing here.

Lake Barrett is limited to 25 boats with a maximum of four anglers each, but most anglers keep it to two in the boat. New this year are float tube and shore entries, which are limited to 25 fishermen. Anyone fishing must get tickets from TicketMaster (800-745-3000). They go on sale the second Tuesday of the month for the following month’s fishing. Tickets go on sale at 7 p.m. and remain on sale until all the month’s fishing days are sold out, even if it takes a few days. CS