BY MIKE STEVENS
CROWLEY LAKE – Anglers looking at the weather forecast the week prior to the Eastern Sierra trout opener were bracing themselves for dangerous wind conditions above and beyond what they’ve grown to expect on Crowley Lake. While there was good reason to approach with caution, and wind did end up being a factor at some level by early afternoon, Crowley seemed to get off easy in the wind department when compared to the rest of the region, even nearby Convict Lake which was absolutely blown to bits.
Hobie Fishing Team member Gil Hernandez guides a small group of kayak anglers on Crowley on most opening days, so he definitely had an eye on the forecast going in to the first day of the season, but he was pleased by the fishable conditions and solid fishing. There was some significant wind first thing in the morning, and his group didn’t get out completely unscathed.
“Everyone thought I was crazy, but I had a limit before 9:30,” said Hernandez. “We did have one of our guys flip his kayak. Lost one rod, and he had a very cold bath!”
He told Western Outdoor News he was working depths of 50 to 60 feet of water on the north end of the lake, and he gave a lot of the credit to the ability of a kayak angler to work “slower and lower” than boaters, and to mix up speeds more easily while keeping rods lower to the water. Hernandez’s group did well on Thomas Bouyants, Berkley Flicker Shads and Rapala CD3’s and CD X- Raps trolled on three colors of leadcore to a 30-foot, 6-pound fluoro leader.
“The Sacramento perch were out to play as we brought them to the stringers as well,” he said. “We had a mixed bag of species but cutthroat were king this Opener as I saw lots at the fish cleaning station with mine pushing 3 pounds.”
Trolling got the best of this Opener, and that depth range definitely seemed to be the key among the more successful boaters contacted by WON as they came up the launch ramp. Jerrett Jayden of Bridgeport was part of a group that put up limits (all browns other than one rainbow) trolling Tasmanian Devils at 3.5 colors of leadcore with most biters being found in the main body of the lake out in front of Crowley Lake Fish Camp. Jayden had the top fish of that group, a German brown that looked to be about 4 pounds. There were no real giants reported to the Fish Camp, but the list was topped off by a 7.45 pound cutththoat that ate a Kastmaster in McGee Bay worked by John Michael Elias of Eastvale. A 4.35 cutt that ate a Buoyant at 3 colors also showed up in McGee Bay, and a clone of that fish bit an orange Rapala just south of Alligator Point for another troller.
The morning was slow for shore anglers with most working the shorelines encasing Whiskey Bay and Beaver Cove and the long bank facing open water in front of the Fish Camp and Hilton Bay having only 1 or 2 on a stringer by 9 a.m. along with an above-average number of empty stringers. Bishop-based DFW Environmental Scientist James Erdman was doing a creel survey along the same banks, and he did tell WON a couple of 20-plus-inch cutts did pop up in Whiskey Bay just after 9 a.m.
Most of the shoreline fish were bait-and-wait trout that fell for PowerBait, but Trout Opener mainstay and Berkley rep Marlon Meade did have nice 3-pound class rainbow that ate a Berkley Atomic Teaser jig in the back of Whiskey Bay.
The wind did pick up in the early afternoon resulting in rental boats being called back to the Marina. Larger private boats were able to stay out and continue stringering troll fish, and the shoreline bite did seem to pick up by then. SoCal trouter Tavish McLellan put on a clinic after running across big schools of cutthroat that went nuts for his smoke/sparkle minijigs in deeper, rockier areas close to shore. Had also came tight to some brown trout, and since he wasn’t around other anglers, he had no idea he likely outfished every lure chucker on the lake during this slower bite in tough conditions.
WON also connected with a couple who had a stringer full of what appeared to be 2- to 3-plus pounders they piled up using Berkley Pinched Crawlers from shore at Chalk Bluffs. Bank robbers working Pelican Point had some respectable afternoon stingers mostly loaded with stocker rainbows. Richard, Levi and Tescia Espinoza of Pomona did well on PowerBait including the new Tequila Lime “flavor” from that spot. They were among the a number of Convict Lake refugees who were dealing with 50- to 70-mph gusts that morning and fled to Crowley, but Tescia did manage at least one minijig fish before getting blown off Convict.