Unlocking the Past: San Justo Reservoir’s Fishing Legacy and the Zebra Mussel Menace

San Justo Reservoir, once a thriving fishing spot, has been shrouded in silence since 2008, closed off to the public due to the invasive zebra mussel infestation. The shock of what these tiny invaders can do to a lake is a stark reality at San Justo. This closure serves as a reminder of the impact one small action can have on an entire ecosystem. Let’s delve into the history, the types of fish anglers could have encountered, and the unique insights into San Justo Reservoir’s fishing allure before it fell victim to the zebra mussel invasion.

Fish Species That Once Thrived:

  1. Largemouth Bass: These cunning predators lurked near rocks, logs, and weed beds, waiting to ambush prey. Jigs, crankbaits, and live bait were their kryptonite, especially during mornings and evenings.
  2. Rainbow Trout: Stocked in winter and spring, these feisty fish hid in deeper pools and near inlets. Spoons, lures, or flies could entice them for a tug-of-war.
  3. Green Sunfish: Schooling in shallows and brushy areas, these guys were perfect for kids using small lures, flies, or worms. Endless fun!
  4. Crappie: Look for them near structure in coves or under docks. Small jigs or crankbaits could tempt these aggressive fighters for a light tackle battle.
  5. Channel Catfish: Patrolling deeper areas, especially near the dam wall at dusk or night, catfish loved stink bait, cut bait, or nightcrawlers. Patience was key for these bottom-feeders.

Insights from Before the Closure:

  • Early mornings and evenings were prime time, especially for bass and catfish.
  • Matching the hatch with flies for trout was crucial for success.
  • Live bait magic worked wonders, especially in low-light conditions.
  • The dam wall and rocky outcrops were popular bass hangouts.
  • Coves and inlets held surprising populations of crappie and sunfish.

Unique Considerations for Future Anglers:

  • Zebra Mussels Presence: If the reservoir ever reopens, strict decontamination procedures are crucial to avoid spreading zebra mussels to other waterways.
  • Fluctuating Water Levels: Water levels and clarity can change significantly. Stay informed about current conditions before heading out.
  • Wildlife Encounters: The area is home to wildlife like deer, birds, and the occasional bobcat. Observe them from a distance and respect their habitat.

Specific Locations for Future Reference:

  1. Jackrabbit Lake (near the east entrance): Cast near the dam wall and rocky outcrops for active bass and catfish. Explore the coves for crappie and sunfish hiding in the brush.
  2. Mustang Pond (near Kingbird Pond): This serene pond offered excellent fly-fishing opportunities for trout in spring and fall.
  3. Coyote Creek (near the park center): Hike alongside the creek and cast your line into deep pools and near fallen logs for bass and the occasional catfish surprise.

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While San Justo Reservoir currently remains off-limits, this information provides a glimpse into what it once offered to avid anglers. The zebra mussel invasion may have halted fishing activities, but the memories and potential for revival linger. Someday, with the right measures, this hidden gem in the hills may welcome anglers back to its tranquil waters. For those seeking alternative fishing spots in the Monterey and Big Sur area, feel free to reach out for personalized recommendations based on your preferences. Happy fishing!