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Lake Jennings Hosts Kids Fishing Day

Hundreds of pounds of rainbow trout were biting for participants on Saturday during the sixth annual Kids Fishing Day at Lake Jennings in Lakeside.

The event started in 2015 has been an annual highlight ever since its inception. Kids ages 9 and under fished for free all day Saturday at the Kids Pond, which is a 20-by 20-foot cube within the lake.

Recreation Manager Kira Haley says Lake Jennings was stocked with 2,000 pounds rainbow trout from Wright’s Rainbows in Thatcher, Idaho the week of February 3. Eight hundred pounds went directly into the Kids Pond, which is then attached to the floating accessible fishing dock.

Two of the many happy Kids Fishing Day participants show off their catches. Photo: Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings Hosts Kids Fishing Day

Hundreds of pounds of rainbow trout were biting for participants on Saturday during the sixth annual Kids Fishing Day at Lake Jennings in Lakeside.

The event started in 2015 has been an annual highlight ever since its inception. Kids ages 9 and under fished for free all day Saturday at the Kids Pond, which is a 20-by 20-foot cube within the lake.

Recreation Manager Kira Haley says Lake Jennings was stocked with 2,000 pounds rainbow trout from Wright’s Rainbows in Thatcher, Idaho the week of February 3. Eight hundred pounds went directly into the Kids Pond, which is then attached to the floating accessible fishing dock.

“Kids don’t remember their best day in front of the television, but they remember the first day they caught a fish with a proud parent cheering them on,” said Haley.

Two hundred kids got to catch and take home a trout. Haley says kids as young as two years old participated with a little adult help, including volunteers from the Lakeside Optimist Club, who helped prepare the fishing rods for the kids. Bait choices included nightcrawlers, cheese, white power worms, and mealworms.

Lake Jennings home to trout, catfish, bass, bluegill and sunfish

Getting your hands a little slimy is part of fun at Kids Fishing Day at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

Getting your hands a little slimy is part of fun at Kids Fishing Day at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

Operated by the Helix Water District, Lake Jennings stocks 20,000 pounds of trout annually on a biweekly schedule between November and April when water temperatures are cool enough for trout to survive and 10,000 pounds of catfish in the warmer summer months.

In addition, large-mouth bass, red-ear sunfish and bluegill, as well as channel and blue catfish live in Lake Jennings. Sign up for the Lake Jennings Fish Report online to see what fish are biting.

Recreational fishing is the second most popular leisure activity in the U.S., second only to running. While the majority of avid fishermen and women are over 45, approximately 11.25 million youth ages six to 17 participate in fishing in the U.S. annually

Helix Water District Board Approves Fee Hikes, Other Changes

It will cost more next year to fish, rent boats and camp at Lake Jennings Park, the reservoir and outdoors destination in Lakeside overseen by the Helix Water District.

The hikes were approved unanimously by the Helix Water District board and will become effective Jan. 1.

The daily and annual entrance fees to the lake will remain the same ($2 and $50, respectively) but costs for fishing will be bumped from $9 to $10 for adults, $8 to $9 for seniors and $4 to $5 for children 8 to 15.

Fall fishing season is in full swing at San Diego County's reservoirs and lakes, including Lake Jennings. Photo: Helix Water District

Freshwater Fishing Flourishes at San Diego Region’s Reservoirs and Lakes

San Diego County’s freshwater fishing in area reservoirs and lakes managed by the region’s water agencies attracts expert anglers and beginners alike.

Of San Diego County’s 24 reservoirs and lakes, 18 allow fishing. Bryan Norris, Reservoirs and Recreation Program Manager for the City of San Diego, oversees eight locations offering recreational opportunities, including fishing.

“We are the largest provider of recreation for the domestic water supply in California,” said Norris. “No other program provides recreation at eight different reservoirs. The City of San Diego is considered a pioneer in these offerings. It’s really something that gets overlooked.”

Bass and bluegill are biting at San Diego reservoirs

Bluegill are plentiful at El Capitan Reservoir in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Photo: City of San Diego

Bluegill are plentiful at El Capitan Reservoir in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Photo: City of San Diego

What people often call lakes in the City of San Diego are actually water supply storage reservoirs and part of the City’s municipal water supply system operated by the City’s Public Utilities Department. The nine reservoirs are Barrett, El Capitan, Hodges, Lower Otay, Miramar, Murray, San Vicente, Sutherland, and Upper Otay. Lake Hodges, Sutherland, and Barrett Lake close during winter months; the remaining five are open year-round.

Lake Murray in La Mesa and Miramar Lake in Scripps Ranch are stocked regularly with trout by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The remaining fish species are self-sustaining, such as bass, catfish, bluegill, and crappie.

“We’re so well known for our bass fisheries at the city lakes,” said Norris. “We have multiple tournaments at our reservoirs, it’s our top fishery. They are serious, it’s like any organized sport.”

Trout most popular at Lake Jennings

Brian Pierce of El Cajon caught his limit of trout at Lake Jennings in March, and planned to return for the opening of fall trout season 2019 last weekend. Photo: Helix Water District

Brian Pierce of El Cajon caught his limit of trout at Lake Jennings in March and planned to return for the opening of fall trout season this year. Photo: Helix Water District

Lake Jennings in Lakeside, operated by the Helix Water District, opened its popular trout season November 15. It stocks 20,000 pounds of trout annually on a biweekly schedule between November and April, and 10,000 pounds of catfish in the summer months. It recently received 2,500 pounds of rainbow trout stock from Wright’s Rainbows in Thatcher, Idaho.

Helix Recreation Manager Kira Haley said she works closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the correct timing for stocking the lake for eager fishing enthusiasts.

“If you don’t stock it, they won’t come,” said Haley. “We base the timing on water temperature for the trout, between November and April, when it’s low enough for trout to survive. When it’s not low enough, we stock catfish.”

In August, catfish were stocked at Lake Jennings. Photo: Helix Water DIstrict

In August, catfish were stocked at Lake Jennings. Photo: Helix Water District

In addition, large-mouth bass, red-ear sunfish, and bluegill, as well as channel and blue catfish live in Lake Jennings. Sign up for the Lake Jennings Fish Report online to see what fish are biting.

Haley says she enjoys her new role as a fisheries manager.

“I wouldn’t have called myself a fisherman before I got here,” said Haley. “I know more about fish than I ever thought I would know.

“It’s a very active community. They care so much about the lake and the health of the fish and the fisheries. It’s a great group of people to work with. Most fishermen are good stewards of the land itself. They see a piece of trash, they pick it up.”

Santee Lakes a popular family fishing stop

Santee Lakes, operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, also stocks 12,500 pounds of trout and 24,000 pounds of catfish annually in the fall months for its anglers.

The catfish have been biting big this season at Santee Lakes. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre MWD

The catfish have been biting big this season at Santee Lakes. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre MWD

San Diego County’s year-round lakes also offer hiking, walking, biking, and picnicking.

Three of San Diego’s reservoirs (Lake Hodges, San Vicente, and El Capitan) allow windsurfing, water skiing, and the use of personal watercraft. Stand up paddle boarding was added this year at Lake Hodges. Barrett Lake and Lake Sutherland offer bird hunting.

Santee Lakes is among the county's most popular family recreation spots. Photo: Santee Lakes/Padre Dam MWD

Santee Lakes is among the county’s most popular family recreation spots. Photo: Santee Lakes/Padre Dam MWD

Norris hopes more people will visit and enjoy an escape from everyday urban life.

“There are so many reservoirs around the county that provide recreational opportunities; it’s unfortunate. Everyone thinks of beaches when they think of San Diego,” said Norris.

Stand up paddle boarding is a new activity now permitted at Lake Hodges. Photo: City of San Diego

Stand up paddle boarding is a new activity permitted at Lake Hodges. Photo: City of San Diego

Easier access to recreation information on new website

As part of an ongoing effort on making it easier for the public to access recreation information, the City of San Diego reservoir lakes website has been revised and enhanced.

The website features fishing, hunting, and recreation information, an interactive map, and a photo gallery. New graphics help anglers determine the types of fish available at the City’s reservoirs. Expanded details provide users with access to the fish catch report and details about boating and permits as well as employment and volunteer opportunities.

Lake Jennings staff including Recreation Manager Kira Haley (front row, fifth from left) rely on their dedicated volunteers including Lori Stangel (front row, sixth from left). Photo: Helix Water District

Volunteer Opportunities at Water Agency Reservoirs in San Diego County

People around the world know the San Diego region for its beautiful setting along the Pacific Ocean. But visitors, and even many local residents, aren’t aware of the recreational activities available year-round at area reservoirs.

There are 24 reservoirs in San Diego County. Of these, there are 18 fishable lakes and some offer overnight camping. Popular activities also include boating, kayaking, hiking, and picnicking.

Lake Jennings Reservoir, east of El Cajon, is called a “hidden jewel.” Lake Jennings Recreation Manager Kira Haley admits she didn’t know much about the lake even though she grew up in nearby La Mesa.

“It’s a beautiful resource, and it’s so close to home,” said Haley.

Volunteers help maintain the Lake Jennings campsites, which include five tipis. Photo: Helix Water DIstrict

Volunteers help maintain the Lake Jennings campsites, which include five tipis. Photo: Helix Water District

Volunteers help Lake Jennings operations become self-sustaining

Haley arrived in December 2014 with the goal of making the Lake Jennings self-sustaining. Recent park upgrades and an aggressive outreach program have attracted new visitors. The Helix Water District considered closing the park due to financial losses. But in 2018, Lake Jennings Park made a profit for the first time.

Onsite volunteers make a significant contribution to park operations. Onsite volunteers live full-time at Lake Jennings in campers and trailers in exchange for campsite space and electricity. They perform key roles by staffing the information and registration kiosk, monitoring and maintaining the 97 campsites, answering questions, and responding on-call 24 hours. All volunteers receive training in first aid and evacuation procedures.

“We find the volunteers through word of mouth or regular campers who retire,” said Haley. “Some work other jobs and still volunteer 24 hours each week. Their backgrounds are varied. Some have been with us for many years.”

Visitors can enjoy hiking year-round at Lake Jennings. Trail maps are available from volunteers at the campground kiosk. Photo: Helix Water District

Visitors can enjoy hiking year-round at Lake Jennings. Trail maps are available from volunteers at the campground kiosk. Photo: Helix Water District

Eight campsites are home to the volunteers, whether individuals or couples. Haley is currently recruiting new volunteers. The Helix Water District oversees the hiring process. Applications are now available on the Helix Water District website jobs page.

“It’s wonderful to live in a place like this in a natural open space situation,” said Haley. “There is a grocery store a mile away, but when you’re here, you feel like you’re in the wilderness. Everyone who comes out here is looking to have a great time. It makes for a wonderful work environment.”

Retired teacher puts her experience to work at Lake Jennings

Volunteer Lori Stangel arrived at Lake Jennings five years ago intending to stay six months, but is still a dedicated onsite volunteer host. Photo: Helix Water District

Intending to stay six months, Lori Stangel has worked as an onsite volunteer host for five years. Photo: Helix Water District

Retired kindergarten teacher Lori Stangel returned to her native San Diego after working in Arizona. She and her husband Chuck found a notice online about Lake Jennings volunteer opportunities and thought the six-month assignment would provide an ideal transition. Five years later, the Stangels are still living and working at Lake Jennings.

“I love nature, and I love being outdoors,” said Lori Stangel. “I love working with the public, and I work for the best staff and administration at Helix you can imagine. They make me feel welcome; it means a lot to me.”

Stangel puts her 30 years of experience as an educator into her volunteer role.

“I get to educate people and families about nature through the outdoors,” said Stangel. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for retired people, but also for young people. They can still go to school or work part-time. It’s a win-win. I’m here because I love it.”

As a Ms. California Senior America pageant competitor, Stangel also spreads the word about Lake Jennings as a valued environmental resource in her personal advocacy platform.

Additional San Diego County Water Authority member agency recreational facilities with volunteer opportunities include Santee Lakes, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Olivenhain Municipal Water District.