Hot Bites Bringing Anglers to Lake Elsinore
City’s effort to stock up have paid off, anglers pulling out impressive sport fish every day in Lake Elsinore.
Much needed rain and ongoing fish stockings over the last few years have transformed Lake Elsinore’s namesake lake into a haven for anglers.
Largemouth bass, blacknose crappie, bluegill, channel cats, and redear sunfish are among the breeds being caught prolifically in what is Southern California’s largest natural, freshwater lake.
“The fish we’re pulling out of the lake are healthy and feisty. They put up a pretty good fight when you’re pulling them in,” Community Services Director Johnathan O. Skinner said. “For the last several years we have invested in our fishery, and we believe the lake is hot right now for anglers.”
Substantial rain in late 2016 and early 2017 restored the approximately 3,000 surface acre lake to healthier water levels after dropping to its lowest levels in 20 years due to several years of drought.
“In terms ofthe overall health, the lake has improved compared to a couple of years ago,” said Nicole Dailey, who monitors its water quality in her role as Senior Management Analyst. “While it remains vulnerable, the City continues to look for long-term opportunities to further improve our most valuable asset.”
Though rainfall this season has been below average, recent showers along with cooler temperatures have boosted the fishery while also creating a pleasant outdoor environment for bait casters, boaters and shoreline visitors.
Barring an unforeseen weather event, fishing and boating conditions promise to be ideal for the City’s Annual Lake Opening Day on Saturday, April 14, when boaters are allowed on the surface without a lake use pass. Guests at La Laguna Resort and Boat Launch will not be charged resort or lake use fees.
“This is the perfect time to get out on the lake, especially in the morning when it’s calm,” Skinner said. “We have a lot of anglers going offshore on float tubes and specialized rafts who are going for the crappie and bass that live in the (habitat) structures that we have around the lake.”
Much of the credit for this spring’s bounty belongs to the City’s ongoing efforts to stock the lake with species that cope well with the water body’s unique characteristics including a current maximum depth of only about 20 feet.
“The No. 1 positive thing for the lake is that last year we got some water,” said Sergio Fainzstein of Angler Chronicles. “No. 2 is that the City’s fish stocking program has been amazing.”
Angler Chronicles regularly features Lake Elsinore as a top destination for sports fishing on regional radio and cable TV segments including Fox Sports West.
“The stocking program that the City instituted in the last few years has come full circle and we’re seeing higher quality fish biting in Lake Elsinore,” he said. “I think the lake is getting better every year for fishing.”
In the last three years, the City has spent about $150,000 on stockings to improve lake health and expand the sport fishery. The goal is to increase the site’s attractiveness as a regional destination.
More than 11,000 pounds of channel catfish as well as 1,780 pounds of largemouth bass have been planted along with 7,975 blacknose crappie (head), 6,150 bluegill (head) and 3,625 redear sunfish (head).
Though smaller than other sport fish when they reach adulthood, but still capable of putting up a fight, blue gill and the sunfish are ideal targets for younger anglers. The City’s annual Just 4 Kids Fishing Derby is scheduled for Saturday, June 2.
“While bass and catfish hauls have been good for some time,” Fainsztein said “the crappie bite has really started to go off in the last two weeks.”
Lake Elsinore has become a hot spot for crappie fans, thanks in large part to the efforts of William Johnson, who runs William’s Bait and Tackle and operates La Laguna boat launch for the City.
Johnson’s knack for catching crappie has earned him the moniker locally of the “Crappie King.” The breed is widely regarded as one of the more delectable freshwater fish to eat.
To capitalize on the trend, City officials decided to infuse the lake with fingerlings of blacknose crappie. It is identifiable by a black stripe that runs from the nose across the top of the back.
The distinctive feature enables those fish to be differentiated from other black crappie, giving fishery analysts the ability to gauge how successful the stockings have been.
The philosophy is detailed in a video, “The Benefits of Stocking Blacknosed Crappie in Reservoirs,” produced by American Sport Fish Hatchery. It can be viewed at https: youtu.be/FKAMvgFD4sl.
To date, the strategy appears successful, Skinner said.
“With the stockings we have done, our efforts are coming to fruition,” he said. “Anglers over the last couple of weeks have been catching blacknose crappie that are of a very substantial size.”
Among the lake’s fish population, a prolific but less desirable fish in terms of the effect on water quality is carp. Because they traverse the lake’s bottom, carp stir up sediment and nutrients that reduce water quality and increase the potential for harmful algae blooms.
In past years, the City in conjunction with a joint powers authority, the Lake Elsinore and San Jacinto Watersheds Authority, removed millions of pounds of carp from the lake.
While those removals haven’t occurred for several years, Johnson and the City came up with a novel way of reducing the carp population.
Last month, they staged a carp fishing contest billed as “Carp Quest,” which attracted about a dozen anglers from the ages of about 6 to 60. The event resulted in the removal of about 150 pounds of carp.
“People are already looking at coming back and asking us when the next one will be,” Skinner said. “Not only are they helping us to remove some of the carp in the lake, they also get to see and enjoy our lake.”
The City is planning its next fish stocking on April 30th. Since 2016, the City has been stocking the lake at least three times per year.
"Everyone I meet has a story that begins...back in the day we were at Lake Elsinore..." said Councilmember Bob Magee. "The new narrative reads....and we caught a bunch of fish!"
UPCOMING LAKE ELSINORE FISHING-RELATED EVENTS (TO ADD LINKS FOR EVENTS)
- April 14 — Lake Opening Day, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lake Use Pass waived for vessels. Resort and Lake Use fees waived at La Laguna Resort and Boat Launch
- May 5 & 6 — 6th Annual Dream Extreme Fishing Derby, La Laguna Resort and Boat Launch
- June 2 — Just 4 Kids Fishing Derby, La Laguna Resort and Boat Launch
- Davis Street Fishing Beach, Davis Street at Lakeshore Drive
- La Laguna Resort & Boat Launch, 23040 Riverside Drive
- Lowell Street Fishing Beach, Townsend Street at Lakeshore Drive
- Whisker’s Fishing Beach, Townsend Street at Lakeshore Drive
- Lake Elsinore Inlet Channel and Levee, access north of The Diamond stadium, 500 Diamond Drive
- Various Private Campgrounds and Beaches