As Sierra season winds down, winter prospects looking good

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BY ERNIE COWAN

BISHOP — As the 2020 general Eastern Sierra trout season enters the final two weeks, anglers are enjoying some of the best action of the season.

At press time, the weather was still relatively mild, crowds were light, and trout were feeding aggressively as they prepare for winter.

This is also good news for winter anglers who should see that pattern continue for a while on waters open all year long. That includes the Lower and Upper Owens River, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, Hot Creek, and the East and West Walker Rivers.

Until winter storms bring snow or unbearable temperatures, anglers can expect the winter waters to simply be an extension of the regular season.

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Services in Bishop Creek are now closed, but anglers still have access to lakes and streams, and can expect some exciting action.

Jared Smith at South Lake Landing said the bigs were still active and anglers should expect to haul in some of the 3- to 10-pound rainbows stocked all season.

TWINS FROM SADDLEBAG — Services at Saddlebag lake are closed for the season, but fishing is still open and Ed Tunstall from Yorba Linda bagged these 4-pound twins with a floating worm tossed from shore.

Anglers willing to walk to the back of the lake should toss into the tongue water at Treasure Lakes inlet. Smith said some monster rainbows are staged there, waiting for food flowing into the lake.

We have no reports from Lake Sabrina or North Lake, but until snows arrive, those two waters should also be excellent for late season action.

Services have also closed in Rock Creek Canyon, but waters are still open to fishing and have been well stocked.

Rock Creek Lake received several loads of 3- to 8-pound rainbows in the past few months, and most went deep and did not bite because of warm weather. That’s changed now and those bigs should be cruising the shorelines and inlet looking for food.

As long as the weather holds, the natural lakes in Little Lakes Valley beyond Rock Creek Lake should be in a feeding frenzy as wild brookies, brown and rainbows feed aggressively before snows arrive.

Convict Lake remains open and the bigs stocked there continue to bite. Jesse Alvarez from Whittier used a nightcrawler from shore to haul in picture-perfect 3-pound rainbow. He also nailed a 7-pound rainbow at June Lake.

SEVEN-POUND SMILE — This is just one of two 7-pound rainbows landed by Jerry Sietsma from Lake Isabella who was offering a Pinched Crawler infused with garlic at Lake Mary.

Crowley Lake ends its season on Oct. 31, and the final days have been epic for some beautiful browns.

Despite services being closed in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, the fishing is on fire.

Clancy Cornell at Rick’s Sports Center said Lake Mary is the current hot spot.

“We are seeing huge fish every day, averaging about 5 pounds, but anywhere from 3 to 9 pounds,” he said.

The best action has been from shore with red/gold Thomas Buoyants, brown trout or cutthroat patterns, and large Kastmasters. For bait it’s been Pinched Crawlers or garlic eggs.

So far there has been no snow, but cooler temperatures have energized the trout bite.

PUMPING THE POUNDS — It’s heavy lifting for Gunnar White from Garden Grove, but he can do it to show off this 5-pound, 6-ounce rainbow that he hauled from Lower Twin Lake in Bridgeport with PowerBait.

Just about everything in the June Lake Loop is now closed or will close in the next week. Loop waters remain open to anglers.

All loop lakes have been stocked heavily with 3- to 10-pound rainbows and with cooler weather, they are biting, according to Jeremy Ross at Ernie’s Tackle and Ski.

“Crowds are heavier than you would expect this time of the year, but that’s also because fall colors are still good,” Ross said.

There have been some 7-pound rainbows reported from June Lake, and larger browns being caught at Grant Lake, but Ross said temperatures are still on the warm side for bigger brown to move up into Rush Creek.

If a cold snap arrives before the season ends on Nov. 15 it could trigger the browns like past years when double-digit bigs have been caught.

Storms could be a factor any day now at the higher elevation lakes around Tioga Pass, but until then, Saddlebag has been producing some nice fish for shore anglers.

Services are closed at Saddlebag for the season, but Ed Tunstall from Yorba Linda used a floating worm from shore and landed matching 4-pound rainbows.

Virginia Lakes are also higher elevation waters but were well stocked throughout the summer and the bite there should be active as cooler temperatures chill the waters. All services are closed at Virginia Lakes.

BIGS STILL BITING — Bridgeport Reservoir continues to kick out some nice fish like this 6-pound, 12-ounce beauty caught by Judy Katsumot from Ridgecrest who was trolling a nightcrawler while fishing with guide Ray Robles.

As mentioned above, the East Walker River out of Bridgeport is one of the waters that remain open to winter fishing.

Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport reports that conditions are good with flows moderate at 69 cubic feet per second.

“Most of the action we’re hearing about is with nymphs but there have been a couple good dry fly reports later in the evenings,” Reid said.

Patterns to try include Perdigon nymphs, Radiation Baetis, Flashback emerger, San Juan worm, Squirmy Wormy, WD-40, E/C caddis, Elk Hair caddis, Stimulator, Chubby Chernobyl, Madam X and Dark Lord.

Bridgeport Reservoir can rightfully be called one of the Eastern Sierra hot spots right now with both rainbows and browns on the chew.

Trolling with Speedy Shiners, Thomas Buoyants, Rapalas and nightcrawlers has been the best choice.

Typically, the late season bite is also on fire at both Upper and Lower Twin lakes in Bridgeport, with lots of quality fish to 6 pounds showing up.

Reid said lure anglers are using Rapalas, Needlefish and Kastmasters and bait anglers are going with Mice Tails, PowerBait and nightcrawlers. There’s still some good fish being caught with flies like Woolly Buggers and Matukas.

CROWLEY LAKE GOLD — Crowley Lake closes for the season on Oct. 31, but this is not a bad way to cap a great season. Erich Bollinger shows off this spectacular brown trout that he caught while being guided by “Two Bug” Doug Dolan with Sierra Drifters Guide Service.
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