Eastern Sierra anglers ease into winter season

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UPPER OWENS THRILL – Dane Sorensen from Los Angeles shows off a beautiful rainbow he caught on the Upper Owens while being guided by Hans Grotewold with Sierra Drifters Guide Service.
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BY ERNIE COWAN

BRIDGEPORT —There is big news for the growing cadre of anglers who enjoy winter fishing in open waters of the Eastern Sierra. It’s even better news for next year.

The Bridgeport Fish Enhancement Foundation has just stocked over 2,000 reproducing brown trout into East Walker River and Bridgeport Reservoir.

This will not only sweeten winter fishing but will have ripple effects for many years as these trout acclimate, breed and spread into upstream waters.

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“We are glad to have these partnerships with CDFW, Desert Springs Trout Farm and all of you, who sponsor and donate to help continue these sustainable fisheries. These browns had been growing all season and have now found their new homes. BFEF kindly asks that you practice C&R as much as possible to help sustain the brown trout fisheries,” said BFEF President Ray Robles.

If there is a model for successful trout stocking, it certainly would be the Bridgeport Foundation.

In addition to ongoing efforts to maintain a strong rainbow trout fishery, they ramped up efforts even more when stocking from state hatcheries ended earlier this year because of a disease outbreak.

RAINBOW ON ICE — Yup, it’s been cold, but a hot bite quickly warms you up and D.J. Smetana from Bishop shows of an ice bow he connected with on the Wild Trout Section of the Owens River by tossing Ned Rigs and C3 Ice Picks upstream into fast water after finding the correct weight and lots of practice.

“BFEF took a proactive approach by meeting with several private donors and partners to secure enough separate funding to stock an additional 800 1-pound rainbow trout into Bridgeport Reservoir. These beautiful fish will grow during the off-season and should make for a funtastic 2021 season,” Robles said.

Unsure of state hatchery capabilities for 2021, BFEF also plans to continue their aggressive tagged trophy rainbow trout program for Bridgeport area waters.

Despite generally clear, but chilly weather, it looks like many anglers stayed home over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Some areas were also challenging because of low flows.

Rick Gieser at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport said flows on the popular East Walker River are at very low levels, which is normal for this time of the year.

“That means small patterns and stealthy approaches to avoid spooking the fish,” he said.

The best tactic is to cast well ahead into likely holes and to keep moving.

Morning temperatures in Bridgeport have also been down to below zero recently, but are hovering in the teens and low 20s.

This means the West Walker will see little action until spring when things thaw out a bit.

Gieser said flows on the West Walker are also at a meager 5 to 6 cubic feet per second, and that means waters will soon be icing up completely.

Access and fishing on the Upper Owens are good for now until winter storms dump snow.

Big rainbows continue to move up from Crowley Lake to spawn and guides at The Trout Fitter reminds anglers to handle those fish with caution.

“DFW is no longer stocking fall spawning rainbows. Every fish laid in the dead grass, carried away from the water, held with a towel or squeezed is another fish that won’t be spawning,” they said.

Hatches are on the weak side with midges being the dominant bug right now, but there is a scattering of small mayflies during the day.

Trout Fitter guides suggest trying some larger midge and perch patterns to interest the migrating lake fish.

On Hot Creek, anglers are reporting a BWO hatch starting late in the mornings, but that window is getting shorter and will be ending soon. Access still open.

There were few reports from Pleasant Valley Reservoir, but typically as waters get colder fish there are going deeper to hang out in warmer pockets of water near the dam.

The most consistent place for good winter trout fishing continues to be on the Lower Owens where flows are down to winter levels which is ideal for wading into productive areas. Winter temperatures are also milder in this area.

Anglers can expect morning midge hatches, shifting to craneflies, caddis and BWO later in the day.

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