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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: A RECREATIONAL GUIDE | BY SEA

From Fishing to Boating, These Lakes Offer Variety

June 06, 1997|STEVE HYMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Engineers like to call it "reclaiming" the water. To provide drinking and irrigation water to the burgeoning population of Southern California, huge reservoirs were built throughout the state earlier this century. Most happen to be in very pretty places. And most happen to be teeming with fish, thanks to stocking by the state Department of Fish & Game. Here's a list of 10 of the nicer lakes in Southern California. Keep in mind that it's mandatory to have a fishing license and that limit rules must be followed. All of the lakes have a marina from which boats can be rented--the type of boat depends on the lake. Also, it frequently becomes extremely windy at many of the lakes, so call first to make sure the lake is open.

* Lake Mary and Lake George--If heading to Mammoth, don't miss these two small and natural gems, set just over 9,000 feet, with the jagged peaks of the Eastern Sierra as a backdrop. Fishing's the game here; both lakes are stocked with trout and have nice forest service campgrounds. Day-use fee: Free. Phone: Inyo National Forest, (760) 934-2505.

* Crowley Lake--Ugly. But the trout fishing is great. The April opener here is a mad-rush that has to be seen to be believed. Fishing from a boat is the way to go and the marina will be more than happy to rent you one. The lake is in the Owens Valley near Mammoth Lakes. Day-use fee: $6. Phone: (760) 935-4301.

* Isabella Lake--Tucked in the Southern Sierra, 45 miles east of Bakersfield, this is the largest reservoir in the state at 11,000-plus acres. The fishing and boating is good; water-skiing and jet-skiing is allowed. Five nice forest service campgrounds are near the lake. Day-use fee: Free. Phone: (619) 379-5646.

* Lopez Lake--The lake has three big arms and 22 miles of shoreline, sitting in the oak-dotted hills near Arroyo Grande. Anything goes here, including good fishing (a world record, four-pound sunfish was caught here in 1987), water-skiing, jet-skiing, swimming and sailboarding. There's also a nice campground, pool and water slide. Day-use fee: $5. Phone: (805) 489-2095.

* Lake Cachuma--There's no missing this 3,100-acre lake, which dominates the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. The fishing is good; rent a boat to explore the coves and inlets. No swimming or body contact is allowed, but there is a pool at the lake. The campground has many nice, shady sites. Day-use fee: $5. Phone: (805) 688-4658.

* Pyramid Lake--On misty days, Pyramid looks other-worldly with the jagged peaks of the Sespe Wilderness as a backdrop. The lake is right off Interstate 5, north of Castaic. Fishing and boating are the thing, since the lake's shores are mostly steep hillsides. Water-skiing and swimming are allowed and there's a nice picnic area. Day-use fee: $6. Phone: (805) 295-1245.

* Castaic Lake--This is L.A. County's world-class fishing lake; some feel the next world-record largemouth bass will be caught here. There's also sailing, sailboarding, water-skiing , jet-skiing and camping. The lagoon just below the lake offers good shore fishing. Day-use fee: $6. Phone: (805) 257-4050.

* Lake Piru--It can be hot, dry and windy up here, but the lake is actually a pretty good fishery. The way to go is to rent a small motorboat and explore the coves across the lake from the marina. Piru can be a good alternative to nearby Castaic, which draws huge crowds. Water-skiing and swimming are allowed. Day-use fee: $6. Phone: (805) 521-1231.

* Lake Casitas--Ventura County's answer to Castaic. The lake is loaded with bass, trout, crappie and sunfish--and it has produced several largemouths in the 20-pound range. Casitas is a looker, surrounded by rolling hills. The lake, only 10 minutes from downtown Ventura, has a nice campground and picnic area, but no body contact with the water. Day-use fee: $5. Phone: (805) 649-2233.

* Big Bear Lake--This beautiful lake serves as a beacon for smoggy, hot San Bernardino. Name the activity and it can be found here: Fishing, swimming, boating, camping and hiking in the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest, which surrounds the lake. Day-use fee: Free. Phone: (909) 866-4607.

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