Knee Deep: Outdoor opportunity springs forth

THIS WAS THE EXTENT of the open water at Crowley Lake at last year’s Eastern Sierra trout opener. This was not cool. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

Return of the Sierra Standard?

Boy did last spring suck in the Eastern Sierra. Might even say early summer sucked, too. Sure the long-term effects of that winter of all winter are great, but throwing trout anglers that out of whack wasn’t cool. There were plenty of pipe dreams leading up to the Opener (“I think Crowley’s going to thaw out in the next five days,” etc.) but when game time arrived, there was barely anywhere to fish. Thank God the word got out and most of the crowd sat that one out, but anglers – and more to the point, local businesses – want to get back the Sierra standard operating procedure in 2024. Even with these recent storms, Sierra snowpack is still way less than normal, and while we love putting all that water into the savings account, it does point to full-speed opener (April 27) with plenty of room for the crowd to spread out and fill stringers.

Show Season shake-up

The two Bart Hall Shows shifting to winter gave an early start to show season which still has the Pacific Coast Sportfishing Show (March 7-10), Day at the Docks (April 7) and the West Coast Outdoors and Sportfishing Expo (May 3-5) still on the radar. I dug having winter shows, although for those of us in the industry, it means there is a ton to do and not enough time to do it between coming back from the holidays and getting into show mode. In the past, the Long Beach show would be looked at as the kickoff event of the spring fishing season, in fact, there were some that used it has the target date for when to start hunting white seabass. Now with a show per month from January through May, that’s going to seriously shorten the winter lull and really have the spring fishing season sneak up on us. A steady stream of shows between January and the Eastern Sierra Opener (for example). What a time to be alive.



Rockfish Opener: the unintended event

         Closures always suck, but the one we now get to start ever year off with and ride into spring have at least turned the return of rockfish to the primary target list into something else to look forward to. It may be a dubious event akin to celebrating gas dropping below $4 a gallon when it had shot past 5, but a year ago it was $3.25. Those who know me know when it comes to fishing, I always try to coax out the bright side (if not, you will when you read about what I think about the situation at Lake Hodges) of a bad situation. I get a kick out of seeing a sportboat’s schedule hit the water running with an overnighter that leaves the dock the night before rockfish are back on the menu. Catching a sack of rockfish isn’t hard in general, but it’s cool thinking of all those fish sitting on some rockpile after months of being left alone only to have 25 torpedo sinkers depth charging them all at once. Another thing that is very detectable from my desk at WON headquarters, is you guys are getting better at fishing AROUND the closure with each passing year. We get peppered with more photos of monster halibut (check out last week’s cover with the 40 pounder, and the other biggies on the whopper list) and winter calico bass than we could possibly use. Closures suck, but anglers will always adjust and evolve.

SHOW SEASON now carries us from January through May with five SoCal shows on the current lineup. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

Bass Pro Shops

A few weeks ago, most of us received the Bass Pro Shops Master Catalog in the mail marking the official unofficial New Year for anglers worldwide. Things are also getting real on the brick-and-mortar Bass Pro situation for SoCal anglers with the newest location set to open this spring. I saw a calendar with March 27 as the date for the grand opening of the Irvine store, which recently held a big hiring event. This being California and construction being construction, I’m considering that date subject to change, but it’s finally sooner than later.

LAKE HODGES is closed to trailered boat launching with the launch ramp out of action, but that has turned it in to a boat renter/kayak angler and float tube paradise. Shore fishing is also permitted. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

Lake Hodges re-opens with certain uncertainty

Lake Hodges re-opened as scheduled earlier this month, and while it’s still drawn down to keep water away from the damaged dam leaving the launch ramp high and dry and unusable for trailered-boat launching, at least there are no question marks going into the season as far as what is allowed and what isn’t. Kayaks, car-top boats (really anything you can haul from your vehicle to the water without the ramp) and float tubes are all allowed along with shoreline fishing. Boat rentals will also be available, and lake staffers told WON the rental fleet was beefed up prior to this season. As someone who monitors the San Diego City Lakes on a year-round basis, I think this is the new norm for Lake Hodges for years to come. Even San Diego City leaders have indicated that repairing the old dam is unlikely, and the more realistic option is building an all-new one, and the timeline for that is at least 10 years. While if given the power to snap my fingers and bring Hodges back to normal, I would definitely do it, but I admit, I think it’s cool to have a lake where ‘yak, tube and rental boat angler can fish a world-class lake without competing with go-fast glitterboats and forward-facing sonar. It is what it is, and we can’t change it, so might as well have fun with the unique “level playing field” that has come of it.