Located just north of residents living in Rancho Penasquitos, Lake Hodges is considered by many to be a premier fishing lake – and it’s remarkably close.

For those local residents who only see the City of San Diego-owned public water reservoir as a small shallow lake while driving along Interstate 15, be aware that the lake actually snakes more than five miles through the hills south of Escondido and east of Rancho Santa Fe.

The lake offers a lot to do, with everything from fishing (a public boat ramp is available on specific days of the week), hiking, mountain biking, and picnicking available – plus its own lake monster legend.

The lake features 27 shore miles and 1,234 surface acres, which makes it one of the bigger lakes in San Diego County. Plus it has a reputation as a premier bass fishing location.

While the most common fish species caught at Lake Hodges tend to be bass and crappie, the lake also includes channel catfish (the only species that is regularly stocked), bluegill, bullhead and carp.

Operated by the San Diego City Lake Department, it is open on a limited number of days from spring through fall (check www.sdrp.org. for more information.). Since concession facilities at the lake are closed, anglers must bring their own bait, tackles and supplies.

To add a bit of spice to a Lake Hodges visit, local residents should also be aware that there have also been rumors of something akin to the Loch Ness Monster residing at Lake Hodges. In the late 1920s, reports began to circulate of a strange creature spotted in the waters of the lake. The first official report came in 1929, when the mayor of Escondido formally asked San Diego officials to look into reports of a creature below the depths.

The monster became known as Hodgee, and various research projects have produced only blurry photographs and vague reports of a creature with a “lizard-like head. More details are available at www.hodgee.com.

The lake is part of the San Dieguito River Park, and the surrounding trails offer some great hiking routes to waterfalls, isolated lake views and wildlife viewing. It was created with the building of Hodges Dam on San Dieguito Creek in 1918. The City of San Diego purchased the dam and reservoir in 1925.

There are six barbecues and 12 picnic tables in the picnic area. Patrons can bring self-contained gas barbecues for use in designated areas only. No ground fires or glass containers are allowed. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and at least 50 feet away from the water. Overnight camping is not allowed at Lake Hodges.

Anglers 16 years of age or older must have a California state fishing license, which is not available at the lake currently. In addition to fishing from boats and a wheelchair accessible fishing float, patrons can use float tubes, waders, or simply fish from shore, which is generally readily accessible by foot.

The dirt hiking and riding trails around much of the lake wind through ever-changing terrain and biological settings which include streams, lush river valleys, canopied oak forests, arid rocky terrain and open fields. The topography changes from elevated vistas to marsh-like wetlands. There are accessible staging areas at five locations along the 7-mile primary route. For more information on Lake Hodges trails, visit the web site for San Dieguito River Park at www.sdrp.org.