Upper Otay??

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Dannicus
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Upper Otay??

Post by Dannicus »

Has anyone fished upper Otay in the recent past? I fished lower Otay a couple weeks f weeks ago and decided to hike up there afterward. I'd never been up there before. It looks like it should hold fish albeit not very accessible. Inquiring minds is all.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Str8t Slabaronies »

I wouldn't waste my time with Upper. I've tried a few times in the distant past without much success. The city used to use it as a breeding ground for bass and other fish but that was long ago. It is totally ignored these days and I have heard of a few die offs as well.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by bendopolo 44+ »

Instead of inquiring, why don’t you go up there and give it a shot? It seems to me that there isn’t anybody talking about upper Otay. Do they not want us to fish their secret hole? All the lakes have die offs, they rarely impact the overall population of gamefish. Unless this pond has been affected with a Golden Algae outbreak it probably has fish. The last reference I heard about the lake was that there were abundant Minnows in the shallows meaning fish can live there. I would go but it is 125 mile trip. Invite me and I would go with you. We could keep the incredible fishing to ourselves….
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Tailingloop »

Dannicus wrote: Fri Feb 09, 2024 8:19 am Has anyone fished upper Otay in the recent past? I fished lower Otay a couple weeks f weeks ago and decided to hike up there afterward. I'd never been up there before. It looks like it should hold fish albeit not very accessible. Inquiring minds is all.

I haven't explored there in about 5 years.

In late winter of 2014 (maybe it was 2015) following a heavy rain there was a massive fish die off. The first couple of days after the rain the surface was covered with dead shad and the birds were in a feeding frenzy. No other activity was observed. No bites from bluegill or bass. The week before we had been catching bass and bluegill. The quality of the fishing at the lake had been on a decline for a couple of years prior but that may have just been part of the natural cycle. Not long after the rains thick dark green algae began to form. A couple of visits in late spring and fall resulted in no bites. Also the turtles disappeared and bird activity (coots, ducks, herons) almost absent.

I wondered if the sudden die off was the result of fertilizer residue from the new homes on the ridge above the lake and farther up Proctor Valley being washed into Upper Otay.

I saw some very small fish in shallows after that, but nothing more than about 1.5" long.

SD Fish member @Queue , who I guess is a local biologist, posted on the old SDFISH board over the years some information on oxygen content from water samples, which was very low, even several years after the event.

The last couple of times I looked around up there the Iron Ranger was full of dust and I saw no evidence of catchable fish. No swirls, no small bass or bluegill in shady spots in the shallows. Nothing.

It is really a shame since since it was a nice quiet place to fish some really good catching for bass and bluegill. When the city was planting trout for catch and release fishing for a few years former City Lakes manager Jim Brown said that based on surveys the trout angler there during the winter provided more fish caught per rod than any other lake ( or something to that effect). It was not unusual to catch a dozen or more bass or more than two dozen bluegill in a morning tubing session there fly fishing or conventional fishing. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I got skunked there a few times, but I also caught bass in excess of 7lbs (rounded down from the reading on my scale) and bluegill in excess of 2lbs (again rounded down).

During August and September the catching of 1 to 3lb bass chasing shad could be incredible. Even big bluegill would come out into the pelagic areas and chase shad. One could just pick an area and bob around in a float tube and wait for the fish to come by - no need to try to chase them down. Since the lake was fairly small they would eventually come back around to where you were.

Even though I lived in Serra Mesa and worked in Pt Loma, I would sometimes have an early "appointment" and fish the lake before getting to the office at 10am after a 3 hour session on Wednesday mornings.


Shoreline access would vary with water levels and shore line vegetation growth. At sometimes, access for tube launching needed to be maintained with some machete work, which was generally done by users of the lake and not the city.

Here is a crude video I put together from one morning there 2011.
Last edited by Tailingloop on Tue Feb 13, 2024 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Dannicus
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Dannicus »

Thanks for the report.

During my hike up there I saw nothing. Not even much waterfowl and no baitfish. Shoreline access is extremely limited and I saw only one potential launch site for the float tube. Being 62 years old with bad knees, I was just hoping to get any insight before trying to haul my float tube up there. Trying to decide if it would be worth the pain and effort so I figured I'd reach out to the group for experiences.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Gotfish? »

I think the small fish along the shore are probably mosquito fish (gambusia), the county will stock them in stagnant water. I have been around the lake mountain biking and have not seen any signs of fish feeding on the surface which I used to often see before the big die off.

The die off might have been due to insecticide or herbicide pollution. Any area with high fertilizer run off will usually have this too. Used to be a great lake for float tube fishing, always did well there, much better than Lower Otay.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Borderbasser »

RIP Uppers. It was one of my favorite places to fish.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Dannicus »

Yeah I think I will pass on it for now. It is would be a lot of work on my old-ass body to lug my stuff up there for a little kick around. It'd be worth it if any of you said it was good but....oh well. It never hurts to ask eh?
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by bendopolo 44+ »

I fished Lake Sherwood today in Woodland Hills. It had 0 inch visibility, the water was 54 degrees, and there was a 20 mph winds. There was no sign of any fish. I landed 11 Bass from 8-2 pm. All deep in the Reeds, the Bass were caught flipping weedless wacky rigged Senkos. Looking at a Lake and Fishing a Lake are two different things. Some lakes suck and perhaps this is one of those. But we will never find out by conjecture.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by jjbasser »

used to be off limits. i got thrown out by the sheriff a couple times many years ago.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Tailingloop »

jjbasser wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 12:58 pm used to be off limits. i got thrown out by the sheriff a couple times many years ago.
Upper Otay was opened to the public for catch and release fishing in the mid 1990's.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Queue »

All of the sporadic water quality tests that CDFW has conducted over the last several years have shown anoxic conditions and extremely high conductivity (salinity amongst other minerals) in the water. No one knows why, but the development in addition to natural conditions could be the reason. I believe the old golf course in the water shed was called "Salt Creek"....not sure if its name was literal.
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Re: Upper Otay??

Post by Rude Baits »

Borderbasser wrote: Fri Feb 09, 2024 11:42 pm RIP Uppers. It was one of my favorite places to fish.
I mostly fish off a boat now, but used to LOVE to launch my tube in that place. It is the perfect size for float tubing.
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