Paddle Notes: Sutherland Lake is perhaps the most
popular of all attractions in the city of Ramona.
What’s not to like? It is truly a paddler’s paradise
and photographer’s haven. It is a perfect location
for novice paddlers and kayak anglers.
Dam Road, the access road to reach the lake entrance
is a picturesque drive but not nearly as captivating
as the lake itself with its lush landscape scenery.
Prior to paddling Lake Sutherland I was told that
there was fourteen miles of shoreline. However,
since I paddled the lake, I would estimate its
perimeter is closer to eight or nine miles. As of
4/2014 it is even less. Lake Sutherland only
has 10% of its water level capacity.
unusual features about this lake were the herds of
cows and the few donkeys that were grazing along the
shoreline in the narrow canyon on the Santa Ysabel
Arm, and the millions of little green mosquito-like
bugs called "midges" which were floating on and just
above the water. They were just as annoying as
mosquitoes because every time I paddled or my boat
moved, these little buggers would get stirred up and
get into everything including my eyes, nose and
mouth! Thankfully, there weren’t any midges the past
several years I paddled here.
NOTE: Sutherland Lake
is infested with quagga mussels.
Fishing: Sutherland Lake provides one of the finest
kayak fishing destinations in Southern California
for Florida-strain largemouth bass, crappie,
bluegill, channel catfish, bullhead and carp from
March to late fall. The north shore up along the
Mesa Grande Arm is the favorite spot to catch bass,
using plastic worms and Pig ‘n Jigs along the
outcroppings. The lake record for largemouth bass
weighed in at 16 pounds, 4 oz.
Wind & Weather Conditions: Lake Sutherland does
not usually get windy unless there are Santa Ana
conditions. The summer daytime high air temperature
averages in the 80s and in the 60s and 70s during
the spring and fall. The water level fluctuates
greatly, affecting the shoreline access and creating
unmarked submerged water hazards. Call in advance
for current water level conditions before planning a
trip to this destination. As of January 2014 the
lake’s water level is 10%.
Terrain: Lake Sutherland is located in the
Palomar Mountains, surrounded by Indian reservations
and National Forest land, preserving the calm beauty
of the desert.
The lake is encircled by colorful
rolling foothills intermixed with oak and chaparral,
set against a backdrop of grassy hillsides covered
with wildflowers in the springtime. There is a
picnic area with tables and barbecues overlooking
the lake that provides a perfect setting to relax
and have a bite to eat after a pleasant paddle.
Open: Sutherland Lake is open to kayaking the
second weekend in March through the second weekend
in October on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays from sunrise to
sunset. The boat speed limit is 20 m.p.h.
Sutherland Lake is open on a Friday, Saturday and
Sunday schedule for shore fishing only as the launch
ramp is currently closed. Float Tubes and carry-ons
are permitted. The launch ramp is closed due
to low water levels and it is not anticpated
be open at that time.
Fees: There is a fee to launch, to fish and to
camp but no day use or pet fee.
Lake Facilities: The lake’s facilities consist of
boating, fishing, sailing, a boat launch, restroom
facilities, and boat rentals, (including kayaks).
Swimming, windsurfing, SUP boarding, jet and waterskiing are not
permitted. Pets are allowed on a leash, but not in
the water or near the shoreline.
All private boats,
including kayaks will be inspected for quagga
mussels before launching. Kayaks must be clean and
dry or they will not be permitted to launch. Dogs
are permitted but must remain on no more than 6 ft.
leash at all times. Dogs are not allowed in boats,
rental or private. There is no camping facilities at the lake.
Lake Directions: From the town of Ramona, take
Highway 67/78 (Julian Road), traveling northeast for
about six-point-four miles. Exit on Sutherland Dam
Road and turn left. Follow Sutherland Dam Road
two-point-eight miles to the lake entrance.