Barrett Lake is a catch and release only reservoir located in a remote area approximately 35 miles east of downtown San Diego. The lake is open seasonally from May through September and because of its popularity, reservations are required to be purchased through Ticketmaster ahead of time.
Barrett is unique from the rest of the area’s reservoirs for a number of reasons. Unlike most of San Diego’s lakes, Barrett is dominated by the aggressive northern strain of largemouth bass (as opposed to the larger, but tougher to catch Florida strain bass). Additionally, Barrett Lake is strictly catch-and-release and anglers are only permitted to use artificial lures with barbless hooks – a restriction that is actively enforced by state fish and wildlife officers.
Barrett Lake was formed in 1922 with the completion of its dam, forming an important point where water could be controlled before flowing into Lower Otay Reservoir downstream. The lake is fed both by drainage from Morena Reservoir and Pine Creek.
For 72 years the reservoir was used solely as a water storage tank, but through receiving water from Morena had also received the local game fish; bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Because it was not open to recreation, it was never stocked with the Florida strain bass that the other lakes were in the 1960s. So it remains the last major population of northern strain largemouth bass in the county, though its likely integration between Florida and northern strain bass has occurred over the years.
In 1994 the city of San Diego secured a deal with the land owner to allow access for the public to the lake, under the term that all anglers will be escorted onto and off of the property. The lake was so popular when it opened – having been untouched for 72 years – that fishing permits were sold via a lottery system. Anglers were required to mail in postcards to the city of San Diego to enter into a drawing for a spot to fish. After a couple years the city switched to offering a set number of reservations per day to be sold through Ticketmaster, and that system is in place today.
Barrett Lake is located at 19886 Japatul Lyons Valley Rd. in Jamul, CA.