Where to Fish in Southern California: Dixon Lake

Where is the best place to fish near San Diego? Well it is hard to beat Dixon Lake in Escondido. A beautiful park-like setting that includes camping and miles of hiking trails, not to mention some seriously huge fish.  Bass up to 20 lbs and trout over 16 lbs swim along with catfish over 20 lbs. RV and tent campers can stay on the spacious sites surrounding the lake. Just a little over 90 minutes from L.A. and close to almost anywhere in San Diego, Dixon Lake is a great place to take the kids fishing in Southern California.



This is one of the more  underrated campgrounds in Southern California. With only 33 sites, not a lot of people even know about Dixon Lake camping. These are nice sized, shaded spots set up on the hills surrounding the lake. Good for RVs and tents alike. A short walk to the lake and you can be fishing. Connect with the lake hiking trail to explore the park. The only drawback at this time is that wood fires are prohibited. Charcoal and propane only.  For reservations go to: http://www.sunrisereservations.com



Dixon Lake Trail is an easy 2.1 mile hike around the lake. Not a loop, as you cannot cross the dam. Be sure and see the cave and during the rainy season check out Jack Rabbit Creek Falls. Daley Ranch, which is adjacent to the Dixon Lake entrance, offers miles of hiking trails. The favorite is a 6.4 mile moderate hike to the Ranch House, the historical home of the original ranch owner. Travel through diverse habitat and get the chance to see a variety of wildlife. Mountain biking and horseback riding are also available here.  If you enjoy hiking, plan on coming out to Daley Ranch. You will not be disappointed.  Click here for our hiking list.



What Dixon Lake is most known for is fishing, and catching big fish. Whether renting a boat, fishing from shore or one of the many fishing docks, you will have a chance at a new lake record. In early 2017 the trout record was broken twice in 3 weeks time. The lake is heavily stocked with trout in winter and with catfish in the summer. A healthy population of largemouth bass, bluegill and carp are present year round.

Fishing fees; $7 adults,  $5 children

Motorboat: $35 all day

Rowboat: $17 all day

California fishing license required for 16 years and older

Bass Fishing Tips

In April 2001 Mike Long caught and released a 20.75 lb. largemouth bass which at the time was the 8th largest bass ever landed by an angler. In May 2003 Mac Weakley caught and released a 19.44 lb. bass. A week later his friend and fishing partner, Jed Dickerson, landed a 21.69 lb. bass that ranked as the 4th largest ever caught in the world at the time. The current world record 22 lb. 5 oz. bass was caught by Manabu Kurita at Lake Kiwa in Japan. His fish broke the 77-year-old  record of George Perry by only one ounce.

So how do you catch your world record? Well, Mike Long uses a life-like trout lure, which looks just like a real trout. Weakley and Dickerson use a plastic swimbait, 3:16 mission fish weedless 7″. The Savage 3D are made for multiple casts, hundreds of casts, thousands of casts. Fishing with these big baits is like big game hunting where you are searching for that one elusive monster. With the Mission swimbait or other brand, slow down the retrieve, even stop now and then. Often after resting the, lure on bottom, that first twitch of action ignites a strike.

To catch good numbers of smaller bass use shad replica lures like crank baits, Kastmasters and small Krocodiles. Drop shot plastic worms or use twist tail grubs in deeper water. In deep water retrieve your bait/lure slowly, real slow. The area around dock number 2 seems to produce good numbers of small bass. From a boat, target drop offs and fish the edge of the weed lines. Please try to practice CPR as much as possible. Catch, photograph and  release.


In 2017 angler Steve Capps caught a lake record 16.41 lb. trout using Gulp Salmon Egg Rainbow Bait in Trout Cove. Less than 6 weeks later Don Stephenson landed a new lake record 16.82 lb. trout on only 4 lb. test line between Trout Cove and pier 2. Try fishing with light line, 4 lb. test, and using all the traditional Powerbaits. Mini-jigs tipped with mealworms have been producing some of the larger trout too. Recent storms have the lake at full capacity, but have colored up the water as well, so be sure to add some scent to your baits. I like Bite-On Garlic and Berkley Trout Dip in garlic.  Click here to see our guide on how to catch trout.


When the weather gets hot the trout seem to disappear. No worries because the warm water turns on the catfish. The best spots are Whisker Bay, Jack Creek Cove and of course Catfish Cove. Try mackerel chunks, anchovies, shrimp and Berkley Catfish Dough Baits. Use heavier line, 8 lb. – 15 lb. test, and be patient. Try night fishing if you are camping at the lake.  Catfish are very active at night. Catfish fillets are great for frying up and making fish tacos.


Small panfish are available throughout the lake and are a great way to get kids started in fishing. Use a small hook on light line tipped with a small piece of worm. Let it dangle 18″ from a bobber near any sunken brush or overhanging trees. Remove bobber and attach split shot to fish in deeper water off the many fishing piers located around the lake. Let the bait sink to the bottom and reel in a foot or so. The kids, big and small should be able to catch a bunch. Just remember, very light line, small hooks and small baits.

So go out and enjoy beautiful Dixon Lake and all it has to offer!

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