LA MESA — Largemouth, bluegill and catfish, sure. But big striped bass at Lake Murray? Seriously? Apparently so — it’s true, folks. While visiting San Diego by way of Oxnard, Cecil Brookins and his wife Kathy were out soaking some cut mackerel this past Saturday in hopes of stringering up a few catfish, but he instead got quite the oddity of a bite at the popular La Mesa reservoir, tying into and landing a hefty jailbird going nearly 16 pounds (15.9).
The fat lineside might just be the first-ever striper caught out of Murray, as far as some quick background intel gathered just before press time went — but it couldn’t yet be confirmed.
“Gosh, this is the first [striped bass] that I can recall [at Murray],” said Kellen Ellis, owner/operator of SDFish.com. “I doubt that it’s the first caught there, but I have no proof otherwise. I am surprised that though that this fish was this big and hadn’t been caught — lots of swimbait anglers at Murray and it’s not a big lake. You’d think one of ’em would have hung it before now.”
“I know of a couple stripers that have been caught at San V,” Ellis continued. “The only stripers I have documented in S.D. are from El Capitan in 2014 and one from Dixon in 2012 — that Dixon fish was around 24 pounds.” Along with the fish Ellis singled out, former WON staffer George Kramer also chimed in, saying, “There have been singles that have showed up in odd places occasionally — like Hodges for one. Not stripers though — A striper.” Lake staffers say that as far as anyone there can remember, the near-16 pounder is in fact the first striper ever caught at the reservoir.
Murray receives water from both the State Water Project and the Colorado River through the SDCWA Aqueduct System, so a rogue striper slipping through the cracks and into reservoirs tied to the Colorado River system surely isn’t impossible, as those jailbirds mentioned earlier prove. But it is indeed an odd-ball rarity, and being such voracious feeders, any significant population of linesides getting into a small body of water like Murray could likely forever alter the reservoir’s ecosystem. “It’s kind of hard to believe, but I could see it being true — I once caught a smallie there in the early ’90s,” said S.D. angler Joe Ahrens.
San Diego anglers will certainly have their eyes on the small La Mesa fishery in the coming weeks, and it might not be too bad of a time to break out the big swimbaits and see what else sticks despite it being in the meat of the summertime.
Meanwhile, water temps up around 82 degrees are keeping the largemouth bite going strong, as the bucketmouths continued to be the best overall bite going at the reservoir. Tossing dark-colored plastics or Senkos in the San Carlos Arm has been the top tactic for hookups, and of course, live shiners are also getting plenty of play too. Along with plastics and Senkos, Brush Hogs and lizard-type baits are enticing the occasional fatter model largemouth, and there have been a few fish continuing to whack topwater stuff early and late. It was a lizard that enticed the biggest reported bass for the week, a 7 pounder for Vincent DePalma of San Diego.
Some nice-sized bluegill up to 2 pounds are being fooled at a pretty steady clip as well. Redworms and nightcrawlers are accounting for the majority of panfish. Lake staffers say the anglers finding the most success with the ‘gills are going with 4-pound test on ultra light setups rigged with split shots and threading the live worms up a #8 hook. The biggest of the bunch that were checked in this week went 2.1 pounds and scarfed some redworms in Cowles Bay for San Diego resident Ken Huntington, who added 4 more stout ’gills to his stringer on Sunday.