ESCONDIDO — With hot weather steaming in July and August in Escondido, the city’s Dixon Lake Recreation Area, situated along the northern edge of city limits, provides relief to fishing enthusiasts by opening up the space for night fishing. It’s also a venue to which people can come camp and hike, too, serving as a place for families and younger people to come with their friends.
“We like it here because it’s close to home and we can come and camp here,” Shauna Olmos, a 35-year-old Escondido resident who was at Dixon Lake with her younger daughter, said. “We haven’t caught a fish yet, but if we do catch one, we will probably eat it. I’m going for whatever will bite, though it seems that catfish is what people tend to catch here.”
For night fishing, Dixon Lake is best known for its stock of catfish.
Jayden Macedo, a 25-year-old resident of Escondido, began going to Dixon Lake for night fishing this summer. He said after he catches the catfish, he then uses it to make a soup. Macedo also said that, beyond catfish, he has seen blue gills, bass and trout in Dixon Lake.
Catfish are not in Dixon Lake by chance or biology alone.
Instead, the city of Escondido purchases the fish breed in 1,000-pound doses and stocks it in Dixon Lake for anglers who come out and test their luck there. A 1,000-pound batch was stocked on Aug. 3 and another 1,000-pound batch is planned for Aug. 24, Dixon Lake Park Ranger Kathy Boyd told The Coast News via email. In total, according to the city of Escondido’s website, the lake is stocked a total of five times between the dates of July 12 and Aug. 24.
“Night fishing is a unique opportunity for anglers to catch those fish until 11:45 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays,” Boyd said. “It’s been a tranquil atmosphere for anglers. The boats sell out pretty early and the piers are popular. Mosquitoes have not been a problem here.”
Boyd was quick to point out that alcohol, smoking and gas-powered lanterns have no place at Dixon Lake and are prohibited. She recommended that those who come should bring battery-powered flashlights and that, while dogs are welcome there, they must be kept 50 feet away from the shoreline. Boyd also said that those who fish at Dixon Lake do not need a fishing license, but must pay a fishing fee of $7 if over the age of 16, $5 for seniors and children aged 8 to 15 and free for children under 8 whose parents or guardians who have a fishing permit.
According to a General Information one-pager, Dixon Lake sits at an elevation of 1,045 feet, has a holding capacity of 3,200 acre feet, a surface area of 76 acres and sits at 80 feet deep at its deepest portion. Further, the sheet explains, “more than 90 percent of Dixon Lake’s water comes from the Colorado River and northern California.”
The biggest fish ever caught in the lake was a 28.75-pound catfish, according to the website SDFish.com. That website also says that three of the 25 biggest bass caught in recorded human history actually came from Dixon Lake, including the fifth biggest ever at 21.688 pounds.
The biggest recorded bass ever seen, too, hailed from Dixon Lake and was named “Dottie.” Though the fish was caught by an angler, it did not count under accepted fishing regulations. “Dottie,” who weighed in at 25 pounds, was featured i
n an ESPN.com story in 2008 called “The One That Got Away.”
In total, Dixon Lake Recreation Area has 527 acres of land and 45 separate campsites. Though many people fish from the shoreline and the park’s four piers (two are open for night fishing), boat rentals are available for $35.
Dixon Lake became known as such due to its namesake, Jim Dixon.
Dixon was a “member of an early pioneer Escondido family, and, for many years, the Superintendent of the Escondido Mutual Water Company,” explains the Dixon Lake one-pager. “Mr. Dixon was one of the first to envision the need for a reservoir at this location.”
Fishing at Dixon Lake brings people of all levels to the scene. For example, Ivy Rugh, 4, and her mother Presley Page, 28, went out fishing at Dixon Lake for the first time. For them, it was a chance to be out in nature together more than it was a pursuit of catching fish to eat. In fact, Page said, they do not even eat fish at all.
“We’re not avid fishers, but this is fun to be outside and together,” Page said. “I used to come camping here when I was little and we would kind of fish and row the boats around and hang out. It’s nice. It’s really fun.”
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news ouetlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.