Santa Margarita Lake

Location and Directions:

4995 Santa Margarita Lake Rd.
Santa Margarita, CA 93453

     Santa Margarita Res. is located in San Luis Obispo County approx. 10 miles NE of the city of San Luis Obispo, CA. From SLO, take hwy. 101 North to the town of Santa Margarita. Exit hwy. 58 East through the town and continue on 58 (Pozo Rd.) East to the lake.

General Info:

    Santa Margarita Res. has 1,100 surface acres and 22 miles of shoreline at capacity. It rests at an elevation of 1,300 feet and was formed with the construction of the Salinas Dam, backing up the Salinas River. The lake is open year round except for Christmas Day. Entrance fee is $5 per vehicle. Tent, RV and group camping is available and there is a nice picnic area for day use. No body-contact with the water is allowed.

  • Main Gate: (805) 438-5485
  • County of San Luis Obispo - Department of General Services: (805) 781-5200
  • Camping Reservations: (805) 489-8019
  • Rinconada Trailer Park: (805) 438-5479 -- 3/4 of a mile from the lake on Santa Margarita Lake Rd. Full hookups, hot showers and laundry available.
  • Santa Margarita Lake KOA Campground: (805) 438-5618

    Other lakes in the area:
    Lopez Res.
    Lake Nacimento
    San Antonio Res.

Custom maps courtesy Jean Romero, Senior Gate Attendant

Boating Info:

    Boating is allowed from sunrise to sunset. Boats must be a minimum of 8' with a 42" width. Launch fee is $4. There are two public launch ramps and a full service marina with rental boats available from $25-$67 per day. Water skiing and jet skis are not allowed. Float-tubing is permitted. Angler's Outpost Marina -- (805) 438-3886

Fishing Info:

     Numerous coves and shoreline, coupled with the fact that there is no jet or water skiing allowed makes this an excellent fishing lake. Rainbow trout are stocked by the county and DFG from November through April. Be sure to visit the CDFW web site for complete regulations before heading out.

     There are also largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish, crappie and bluegill here. There is a 12" minimum size limit on largemouth bass. No live bait is allowed except worms, crickets and crawdads caught from the lake. There are fish cleaning facilities located near the launch ramps.

Lake Records:

Largemouth Bass: 12.96 lbs.
Smallmouth Bass: 5 lbs, 8 oz.
Striped Bass: 32 lbs.
Channel Catfish: 23 lbs, 8 oz.
White Catfish: 12 lbs.
Rainbow Trout: 7 lbs, 7 oz.
Crappie: 3 lbs, 14 oz.

Recently, the tournament fishermen have been throwing purple, black, or blue jigs with matching trailers. Others have just started to throw cranks (I have had the most success with gold or red crawdad Rat-L-Traps). Swimbaits, mostly in rainbow trout, have accounted for a few bigger fish.

And my most productive bait right now is a chartreuse spinnerbait with tandem blades. As for areas to fish, that depends on what kind of fish you want. The big fish haven't started to spawn yet, but they are moving into shallower water. Some small fish are spawning, but they are very spooky so sight fishing is difficult. For the most part, I have found 10-20 foot water near steep drop-offs have been the best, with the occasional shallow water fish (Vaca Flats and the whole stretch across from the marina are my most productive places right now).
My number one tip right now: fish SLOW! With my spinner I was barely making it go fast enough to get the blades spinning. And my Rat-L-Traps frequently hit bottom.

Good fishing and tight lines,
Alex Moreland

    If you know something about this area or have some photos that you'd like to share, please E-mail and I'll post it here!

  • FNN member "BASS SAMURAI" from Los Angeles with a personal best 4.1lbs caught in April of 2012.

    FNN member TORTUGA805 and youngster with a nice Santa Margarita bass.

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