Bass Fishing on Vail Lake

Vail Lake: Unveiling a Fantastic Recreational Destination

Tyler settles in for a long day of bass fishing.
Tyler settles in for a long day of bass fishing.

By Mary Webb

Vail Lake is a large reservoir in western Riverside County, California, about 15 miles east of Temecula.  Upon descending the final road to the lake, a fog slowly lifted; revealing the calm waters below, which my son and I deemed full of fish!  It’s a warm water lake where crappie, blue gill, catfish, and largemouth bass reside in these quiet waters.

We were pleasantly greeted by our seasoned fishing guide, Art Hill and excitedly began our morning lesson of Bass fishing.

Upon entering the boat out on to the lake, we soon discovered the fresh water quagga mussel that is a threat to water reservoirs, such as Vail Lake.  Boats are checked for dryness and monitored to ensure protection to the reservoir water.  When these invasive muscles come together, they block pump systems in the lake, causing substantial amounts of damage.   Assessment measures must be taken to insure all boats that enter the water are dry and free of quagga mussels.

Free of mussels, we are ready to go!  My son, armed with his extensive knowledge of fishing reports, countless YouTube videos of tying hooks and the habits and mannerisms of fresh water bass (and I) sat in anticipation of the speedy ride to the dam.

To the dam!  To the dam!  That was our first fishing spot of the day.  We really enjoyed the speed of the boat which took us to serene waters around the dam.

This dam was built in 1948 when the owners of the Vail Ranch constructed this amazing 132 foot high Vail Lake Dam, which is owned and operated by Rancho California Water District since 1978. The levels of the water are quite low for this time of year.  Most often the water level is as high as the darkest ring on the dam.   We weren’t the only “fishermen” out for the day, the dam is normally a great spot for bass and we enjoyed the politeness of our guide and the other fishermen as they asked each other to take up space in the lake.

After seeing a few marks, the fish that are visible on the fish finder device, we started with shad bait on our line.  Got a few bites, but we were still learning the ropes, or the strings you can say.  We were very impressed with the speed and agility our guide showed, and were hopeful we would hook up with a bass soon.

We were ready to traverse the banks.  It took a few attempts to cast out in these craggy areas without getting caught up.  Bass like to hang out in these shady areas; and although we went through quite a bit of fishing line, thankfully our guide had as much fishing line as patience as we cast along the entire bank.  We worked the lures and sinkers this time.

Success!  Our hard work paid off in the afternoon, as the fish were a bit full from the full moon the previous evening.  Art informed us when the moon is full, the fish end up eating in the middle of the night because they can still see.  We were able to catch a total of 10 bass this day.  (Mom caught the biggest one, but who’s keeping track).  No fish dinner for us however, this lake is a catch and release only facility.

If fishing doesn’t catch your eye, Vail Lake also allows private boats and water skiing.  In fact, water skiing is just one of the activities that Vail Lake offers in recreation.  The property surrounding Vail Lake is privately owned and recreational access to the lake is privately controlled (There is no additional fee for parking).  In addition to fishing and boating; RV and tent camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, miniature golf and swimming are popular sports throughout the year.  Recently kayaking was added to the list of activities and is also on the list for us!

There you are – Vail lake, unveiled.  Excellent place to take the family or enjoy some solitude on the bike trails.  Whatever sport you choose, Vail lake has it for you.  The spring fish will be spawning and we will be calling Art to help us find those fish!

With more than five years experience as a guide, Art is a local expert on both Vail and Diamond Valley lakes, arguably the two best bass lakes in Southern California, both of which are located approximately an hour from downtown San Diego.

Contact Art Hill:  (h) 951.303.1678 (c) 951.265.9551

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