BY MIKE STEVENS
Western Outdoor News had boots on the ground in three zones during the trout opener, and while I hope you appreciated that coverage in our last issue, the “who caught what on what” along with all that wind drama, what was missing in that are the personal takeaways I came back down 395 with. Mental notes for my own Sierra trips (the ones I have to use actual vacation days for and get to, you know, fish hard) that will come in handy when formulating a playbook for both on and off the water.
It was cool having more places to fish in the days leading up to the opener as a result of new regs opening more water to year-round trout fishing. We did hit my normal pre-opener spots in the Owens Valley, including the Lower Owens River and the historical “early-opener” creeks between Lone Pine and Independence, but we actually did best on brown trout in some of the canals around Bishop. I also swung by Intake II on Friday expecting to see anglers shoulder-to-shoulder trying to take advantage of the new Fishmas Eve opportunity, but there was actually plenty of room to work with. I picked up a few rainbows on a jig and was told several times that the fishing was way better the day before when it was snowing. Because, of course it was.
However, it was a bummer not being able to take a few swings on Lower McGee and Convict Creek (downstream of 395). With the new regs, they now open on the last Saturday before Memorial Day (along with other tributary waters of Crowley Lake and Rush Creek in the June Lake Loop). In all cases, it changed to protect key spawning waters at that point in the season, so, I’ll be a team player. Even though it removes a couple spots from my late-April hit list, it’s a positive update overall.
Tried a new(er) brewery in Mammoth: Distant Brewing. I only had time for one pint before I had to head back down to cover the wind-dominated opener on Crowley and Convict, but it was amazing. And the guys I met there said the same about everything they tried. I’ll always be loyal to Mammoth Brewing since I’ve been a fan from the beginning, but I’m never one to complain about options.
When people say the Eastern Sierra is “not getting stocked” this year, I’m not sure if it’s just a matter of being incredibly misinformed or just grasping for excuses NOT to go, or, some combination of both. Prior to the opener, I touched on where trout will be coming from as well as how what that budget is in some cases.
After this recent visit, I now know there are even more avenues of Sierra trout stocking than I knew about. This above and beyond the stocking of the premium Desert Springs
(Oregon) trout courtesy of Mono County, Mammoth Lakes, the Bridgeport Fishery Enhancement Program, etc. Way more individual resorts/marinas are doing it on their own (Convict Lake got started before the Opener, as an example) than I knew about.
And yeah, three hatcheries had to shut down and restart from scratch, but that did not include the Hot Creek Hatchery which also stocks the region. Short version: the Eastern Sierra is getting stocked with plenty of trout this year.
There was a lot of confusion regarding the new regs, especially in the days leading up to Opening Day. The confused included anglers, tackle shop employees , and even game wardens. Make sure you’re up to speed at least on the spots you fish. Focus specifically on your spots, and it’s a lot less overwhelming.
Shameless plugs based on my 395 travels alone: Whitney Portal Hotel/Hostel and Store. Cheap, comfy and clean on-the-way-up lodging right on the highway with a view of Mt. Whitney. Make sure you get one of the rooms on the front of the building for the view. Vibra’s Juice Bar in Lone Pine is a new spot that came through in the clutch for non gut-bomb grub (breaking up multiple days of nothing but gut-bomb grub) and “serious gourmet” coffee. Seasons 4 Condos, Liberty Bar, The Outlaw Saloon/John’s Pizza Works in Mammoth Lakes as well as the aforementioned Distant Brewing in addition to Mammoth Lakes Brewing.