Lake Cuyamaca


Getting There
The hardest thing about finding Lake Cuyamaca was locating it on Google.  Apparently, I spelled it so bad that even Google didn’t recognize what it was.   Did it start with a “G” or with a “C”?  After a few tries, I spelled it close enough to get the links I was looking for and the info on where it was and how to get there.

Lake Cuyamaca is about an hour’s drive from San Diego and only ten minutes from the small town of Julian. The route to Julian from Oceanside is one of my favorite drives even though it takes over an hour to get there. I had heard about this lake many times and always wanted to visit, so off we went with fishing poles in hand, cameras, munchies, and a warm change of clothes.

As you pass through the main street of Julian you eventually hit the road that heads towards the lake. The scenery along the way is filled with meadows and hills and you would never know that it snows there at certain times of the year.


Situated at an elevation of around 4,600 feet, the lake is nestled in a forest of mostly pine and oak and is surrounded on three sides by the 26,000 acre Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Arriving at the Lake
On an exceptionally warm day in November, we departed Oceanside with the car thermometer showing 85 degrees outside.    Dressed in shorts and short sleeves, we noticed the needle slowly descending toward lower numbers as we drove further up in elevation. When we arrived at the lake it was 65 degrees.

At first it felt kind of nice and refreshing so I kept on my summer attire, but after a while I made the mad dash to the car to find my warm clothes consisting of a sweatshirt and long pants.  I may be a beach girl with salt water for brains but even I know it gets colder at over 4,000 feet above sea level…plus I Googled the current temperatures.

Now it was time to get busy fishing.  As we sat alongside the lake, a few people stopped by to chat and casually let us know that the lake had been dead the last few days.  One guy said he hadn’t caught anything in three hours and in that same time period we only got three small nibbles.

Our little fishing area

Don’t let that discourage you as they stock the lake annually with over 38,000 lbs. of trout. They just weren’t biting that day where we were, or on the boats, or on the dock, or anywhere near someone’s fishing pole. It was just one of those days.  Other than trout, the lake also has bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and sturgeon.

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Chasing the Moon

It was called the  ‘Super moon’ and on one autumn evening it was going to be seen large and bright while rising over the city in San Diego.  I had thoughts of the beautiful San Diego downtown skyscrapers providing the colorful foreground for this unusual occurrence.

Even though I was getting delayed at work, I made the last-minute decision to head down the road for the 40 minute drive to the amazing SD bay.

I got there just in time to set up my shot and had enough time to get the settings just right.  My tripod was at the ready while in the distance the high-rise buildings were gradually lighting up against the twilight sky.  I couldn’t wait to see this great shot.

However, being the amateur photographer as I am, I wasn’t quite sure on where the moon would rise.   I wasn’t alone though; many others were patiently waiting where I was standing.

I guy told us that it would rise at 5:30 so I was a little perplexed when at 5:45 there was still no moon.  I was about to give up when I heard someone yell, “Over here”.

It was not going to rise over the now illuminating city scape. it was over more by the hills above the airport.

With equipment in hand, all of us started running across the street and through a parking lot, then toward a marina. The lady ahead of me ran right into a chain that went across the parking lot and almost flipped herself over the barrier.   I looked like a football running back as I slid to the side  to avoid the same fate.

We couldn’t find an opening even though we saw the white illumination of the rising moon getting higher and higher. My shot was dying!!  Every time I tried to shoot; a sailboat mast was in the way. I was hurrying trying to get the settings of the camera. The moon was moving too quickly so I took a separate shot of the moon with detail and one where it was against the buildings but much brighter and no detail.
Cropped them together at the exact size the moon was in the buildings photo.

skyline-for-wp-1000 moon-over-city-gg-1000-for-wp

Such a fun night even though I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I need that app that tells us where all planets and stars are at any given time.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the shots, my sciatic nerve hurts today from my OJ move, but I’ll be o.k. until next time.

Story: Debbie Colwell

Photos: Debbie Colwell

Laguna Niguel Lake

Laguna Niguel Lake 

“I got one, I got one” came the cry from the far side of the large cement slab. We dropped our poles and ran over to see a nice sized bass carefully being hoisted out of the water.    This marked the end of three hours of barely a nibble and the beginning of the next three hours packed with plenty of fishing action on Laguna Niguel Lake.

The 44 acre Laguna Niguel Lake is one of hundreds of lakes scattered about in California.  The largest lake situated entirely in California is the 68 square miles of Clear Lake in the northern part of the state, just above Sacramento.   Although  Lake Tahoe is by far the largest lake,  it only shares part of its shores with California, the rest with Nevada.

With California’s diverse topography you will find beautiful lakes up and down the state from scenic mountain lakes to tiny desert reservoirs and everything in between.

Some are unknown gems that are tucked away in the middle of a city similar to the subject of this story.


Fishing on the Lake
Up until a few years ago you could rent small boats on Laguna Niguel Lake for fishing or just for fun.  Unfortunately, that operation has since been shut down and no boats are allowed on the lake.   After that closure, all you will find is a deserted dock and an empty shell where the shop once was.

However, you can still fish from the shore from one of the many little beaches scattered about on the lake. Plus the regional park surrounds the area with plenty to do, if you don’t feel like fishing.


On a gray day in October, three of us girls decided that we would try our luck fishing from the shore.

It started sprinkling when we parked so we headed for the cement slab that sat just below the abandoned store.   We saw that the trees on the structure provided protection from the now descending droplets, so we set up our chairs there
It was a large area with a connected dock that I am sure at one time was lined with boats ready to shove off and explore the lake.


Today, it is an oversized, mossy, cement patio that we were hoping would be a great place to fish. Especially since no one else was there, did the locals know something we didn’t?

Our home base for the day

Luckily the rain let up so we could freely move around without worrying about getting wet

We read that the lake was stocked with bass, catfish, trout, and carp although we didn’t believe it as it was quiet as can be for three hours with barely a nibble.  For awhile we were content just enjoying this beautiful setting with the trees, birds, and the calm of the lake.   We know fishing takes patience; still you want some action, so after awhile we threw our lines out on one of the beaches nearby. There was nothing happening there either so we headed back up to the cement slab for munchies, a drink, and to try again.

Staycationer JoJo tries her luck on the beach

The dock is off limits but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t

The guy who was fishing to the north of us was gone now so one of us headed over there to try her luck. It wasn’t too long before we heard the above mentioned yell of a fish on the line!  Pulling the fish out of the water gave hope to all of us and delight to the former bored fisher-woman.

So began the shift to that side of the structure to start another three hours of fishing with a much different outcome,  this time it was non-stop nibbles with eight fish caught!

The reeds at the shoreline evidently attracted the fish and we all cast in that general area.  Two of our crew are beginners and they of course caught the most and the largest fish. The last fish of the day was brought in from the newest beginner who snagged a huge bass. She had caught a few smaller ones earlier and was casually reeling this one in when all of a sudden she realized she had to do some work!!   The pole was bent almost in half and you could see her struggling with the reel.  When that thing was final brought up, all of us were in awe of its size.  A photo was snapped but it just didn’t do the size justice.

I hate when in real life the fish looked way larger than the photo, but it was!!

With that thrilling ending, we decided to leave as the sun was slowly dipping below the horizon.  From a snore fest of a beginning to an action packed ending, we had a great time fishing this lake.

The ranger told us it was open until 9:00pm but starting in November it would be closed at 6:00pm.

Around the Lake
Besides some wonderful fishing, the lake and the surrounding park is a great place to picnic, hang out, bird watch, walk your dog, bike, hike, etc.

Ignore the homes on the hills and concentrate on the surrounding area which is full of hills and trees plus the lake has a small island in the middle that is a protected bird sanctuary.  We saw cranes, ducks, geese, and an unidentified bird with feathers that were a beautiful navy blue. I kicked myself for not bringing my telephoto because when the white geese took off in flight it was a beautiful thing. I could only admire from afar.

One of many birds that you will see on any given day

The Regional Park
Beyond the lake sits the Laguna Niguel Regional Park which is dedicated to a wide variety of activities as mentioned above.  Two pedestrian bridges give access to remote picnic areas and hiking trails.

Some of the picnic areas can be reserved and they featured a sheltered area with picnic tables, plus barbecue stoves are provided.

There is also a two mile jogging trail, volleyball courts, four lighted tennis courts, and even a remote control glider area.

Back to Fishing

It was clear from what we saw that the lake is a great place for families and kids to come fish, but also for serious enthusiasts. That bass was no joke.


Give it a try when you are in the area and if you hear or see three girls squealing and yelling, it’s probably us because quite frankly we do it whether the fish is two inches long or 18 inches long.