BY ERNIE COWAN
BISHOP — The summer crowds are gone, landings are slowly shuttering for the season, but bigger fish have risen from the depths and even the elusive browns have started to make more frequent showings.
It’s autumn and a special time for trout fishing in California’s Alps as the thrill of brilliant fall colors, open waters and the seasonal trout feeding frenzy make it an unbeatable time to be angling.
While many landings are now closed, or will this weekend, a few may remain open until the season ends on Nov. 15, depending on weather. It’s a good idea to check if you are planning a trip.
In either case, waters are still open to shore fishing or float tubes and unless weather slams into the high country, some of the best bites of the year will happen between now and season’s end.
Jared Smith as South Lake will end operations on Oct. 25, but snow has yet to arrive and the lake continues to produce 4- to 7-pound fish.
Deep water by the dam and hikers willing to hit the inlets at the back of lake can expect to connect with larger fish that have been stocked all season.
“Most of those fish have not been caught,” Smith said.
Flows in the forks of Bishop Creek are down and that means the hidden pools are holding those bigger rainbows stocked all season. Try “dipping” a small lure, salmon egg or fly. It’s an easy technique where you simply lower your line into the foam and be prepared for a surprise when a 4-pound rainbow inhales your offering.
Services are now closed at Lake Sabrina, but similar techniques there are sure to produce some late season trophies.
Rock Creek Canyon is one of my late season favorites. Rock Creek below the lake is well stocked and the light fishing pressure means fish are more eager to bite anything you offer.
Rock Creek Lake is holding plenty of trophies and they will also be cruising for food.
The most exciting action, however, is a short hike into Little Lakes Valley at road’s end where the fall frenzy for wild rainbows, brooks and browns is spectacular in Mack, Mash, Hart, Box or Long lakes, not mention the spectacular scenery. Check the weather before heading out. It can change fast up here.
Convict Lake is still in the game with services still open and the fish biting.
The cooler fall weather has energized trout and the bite is generally spread out at Convict. Biggest fish of the week was a beefy, 7-pound, 12-ounce rainbow landed by Mark Lotz while trolling a red/gold Phoebe at seven colors.
Crowley Lake Fish Camp will close on Oct. 31, but until then, fishing has been very good, according to guides at The Trout Fitter in Mammoth. The bite is a mixed bag that includes lots of smaller fish, but with plenty of bigs mixed in.
Smoke from distant wildfires continues to be an issue for anglers some days but is diminishing. Fortunately, fish don’t care.
Most services are now closed at Mammoth Basin lakes, but waters are still open to anglers.
Plenty of bigs to 7 pounds showing up at lakes Mary and George, along with some bigger browns that have come alive at Twin Lakes.
June Loop is not only offering a beautiful show of fall color, but also an epic bite as trout come up from deeper water.
June Lake continues to offer some bigger rainbows and a few nice cutthroats and so far, the weather has remained chilly, but mild.
Gull Lake produced a 7-pound rainbow for Jim Loge from San Diego, but that’s about all we know.
Silver Lake has been like a picture postcard, surrounded by glowing aspens and a few anglers pulling in 3- to 5-pound rainbows from both shore and boats. Services there will close on Oct. 26.
Fall is typically when big browns start chewing on Rush Creek, but so far there have been no reports of any bigs being caught.
Where Rush flows into Grant Lake, however, there have been some nice rainbows caught, including a 4-pound, 2-ounce rainbow landed by “Trout Whisperer” Julie Ibach Evans, who was tossing PowerBait from shore.
Evenings, although chilly, continue to be a good time to connect with 18- to 20-inch browns with trolled Needlefish, Rapalas or Thomas Buoyants on Grant.
Virginia Lakes Resort is closed for the season, but waters are still open to fishing and often produce some epic fish this time of the year. It’s sure worth a shot, but these are high altitude lakes, so check the weather and go prepared.
The big waters of Bridgeport Reservoir are in full glory right now, with big rainbows, brown and even monster carp being caught.
Angler Guy Perea was working a Rapala when a 17-pound carp latched on, providing quite the surprise.
Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport said trolling nightcrawlers, Rapalas or Thomas Buoyants has been hot with anglers at the reservoir reporting 15 to 20 fish per day.
“There’s lots of nice 2- to 4-pound browns being caught and most of the anglers we’ve talked to that have been catching them have been releasing them to get bigger for next year,” he said. Rainbows to 6 pounds have also been checked.
The East Walker River out of Bridgeport Reservoir is one of those waters that will remain open for winter fishing and is looking pretty good.
Flows have been fluctuating a bit but have settled down now to about 50 cfs, which is great for fly-fishing.
Reid said the action has been mostly nymphing but there has been some decent dry/dropper and streamer action from time to time.
“We’ve had lots of fish in the 12- to 16-inch range reported as well as a few fish that have taped over 20. Check in with Ken’s for the latest fly choices.
Bridgeport’s Twin Lakes produced lots of good fish this week, with some coming in at over 6 pounds. Bait anglers have been using Pinched Crawlers, PowerBait and inflated nightcrawlers. Trollers have been using Rapalas, Needlefish, nightcrawlers and Thomas Buoyants. Fly anglers are doing the best with intermediate lines pulling Woolly Buggers, Seal Buggers, Mini Leeches and soft hackles.
This is also brown bag season at the Twins, when anglers known as Brown Baggers use specialized techniques and lures, sight fishing, and just about anything else they think works to land that double-digit and possibly new record brown.
Each year is a calendar range between end of season and the start of the brown bite.
The California Brown Trout record of 26 pounds, 8 ounces was set at Upper Twin Lake in 1987.