Trout season opener in Sierra yields limits of cold and trout. Jim Matthews column


Mar 11, 2001
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Trout season opener in Sierra yields limits of cold and trout


MAMMOTH LAKES -- Throughout much of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, trout season kicked off this past Saturday with below freezing temperatures and a howling wind out of the north that made it seem below zero in many places.

"It was as cold as I've ever seen it," said Mickey Baron with the new Lake Crowley Guide Service. "I was the one who went out to shoot the flare off [that signals the start of trout season at Crowley], and I said, "Let me back in." It was co-o-o-ld."

Crowley Lake had whitecaps and a short, choppy swell that swamped four anglers' boats, requiring rescues but there were no injuries. Anchored or drifting boats quickly had waves breaking over bows and filling boat bottoms with water, leaving trolling as the only real boat-fishing option. Most boat anglers didn't even go out, and from Highway 395 it looked like Crowley was nearly devoid of anglers.

"Opening day produced the biggest waves I've ever seen on Crowley," said Kent Rianda, owner of The Troutfitter in Mammoth Lakes, who also guides on Crowley. "I stayed in the marina all day working on my boat, but the guys who braved it did really well trolling."

Shore anglers found decent trout action at Sandy Point, off Green Banks, and Leighton Springs in spite of the wind, which calmed by mid-afternoon as the weather warmed. At the end of the first day, the cold and wind was forgotten and anglers were all talking about one thing: the average size of the trout coming from Crowley Lake and other waters in the region this opener.

"Everyone I talked with said the fish were bigger and heavier this year out of Crowley than ever before," said Ron Graves with the Owens River Fly Shop in Bishop.

"There were a lot of three to five-pounders," said Rianda. "These are the biggest fish we've ever caught on opening day from Crowley."

In Bridgeport, Jim Reid at Ken's Sporting Goods echoed a similar sentiment about the action in Bridgeport Reservoir.

"There were just lots and lots of fish in the two to five-pound range, and from that standpoint, this was the best opener in a long, long time," said Reid.

But he was disappointed that no monster brown trout were caught from one of the local lakes opening day, especially Upper Twin Lake or Lower Twin Lake.

"When I got into the store here at 3:30 in the morning, it was snowing, and I thought, "yeah man." But there were no bruisers, and I was a little bummed about that," said Reid. Historically, the two Twin Lakes out of Bridgeport have produced their biggest brown trout during openers with the coldest, nastiest weather. Maybe, it just didn't stay nasty long enough.

In the June Lake Loop, most of the lakes were more protected from the winds and the fishing was generally good. It was June Lake that cranked out opening weekend's biggest trout, a 10-pound, eight-ounce broodstock rainbow planted by the Department of Fish and Game last fall and caught by Bill Denault of Santa Barbara opening morning. Nearby Little Walker Lake, up a canyon on the north end of the Loop, produced the biggest brown trout of the weekend, when David Wohler, El Dorado, caught a 10-pound, two-ouncer on Sunday. And it was little Gull Lake that again produced the weekend's biggest stringer, a five-fish, 23-pound limit caught by John Weisfoss of Oxnard.

In the Bridgeport region, an eight-pound rainbow caught from Upper Twin Lake by Kenny Turturici of San Mateo was the top fish reported, while Evan Eyraud of Bakersfield had the top fish from Lower Twin, a six-pound, one-ounce rainbow.

Reid said Bridgeport Reservoir produced almost an equal mix of brown trout and rainbows opening weekend, and Logan Frey, 10, who's family has a cabin at Twin Lakes, had a five-pound brown trout, the best brown out of the reservoir.

Brian Balarsky at Convict Lake Resort said there wasn't the usual parade of big broodstock DFG fish from Convict this year, but the action was good overall in both the lake and Convict Creek below the lake. Daniel Schumert from Hacienda Heights recorded the biggest fish of the weekend at Convict, a six-pound, five-ounce rainbow.

Opening morning, anglers found icy roads in the Bishop Creek drainage and one slid off the road and rolled onto its side, prompting closures of the upper elevation roads until they could be treated and the day warmed. Once opened, anglers found good ice fishing at South Lake, but the ice a Sabrina Lake was mostly rotten, allowing for limited fishing. All of the upper lakes in the Mammoth Lakes basic offered ice fishing opportunities, and the Virginia Lake had light fishing pressure, but very good ice fishing action.

The better quality of fish from Crowley Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir, and most other lakes in the region was attributed to how long these waters had been ice-free this year, giving the trout a longer growing season and better forage.

"I think everyone was happy," said Dave Smith at Culver's Sporting Goods in Bishop.

How could they not be, it was the opener.

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