BY ERNIE COWAN
MAMMOTH LAKES—Campgrounds are opening, there is food at local restaurants, trout stocking is happening, and summer crowds have returned to the Eastern Sierra.
All of that is good news for the mental health of those who seek the excitement and joy of the high county and the feel of an aggressive trout at the end of light line.
If there is a downside, it’s the fact that increased fishing pressure has made trout a bit wary. That, and summer heat warming trout waters has slightly slowed the bite.
Veteran Sierra trout hunters know that. It happens every year, and the savvy angler who always shows up with limits knows how to adjust tactics to still score both numbers and size. After all, the fish are there and at some point, they are feeding.
Fish numbers seem to remain high, but it looks like the bigger fish are starting to seek cooler water near spring inlets or deeper holes. While reports the past few weeks included several 8-pound and even one 19-pound trout, this week the largest WON has found was 7 pounds, 2 ounces, caught by Doug Jones from El Canon at the inlet to Lake George with a Mice Tail.
There were also several 6-pound fish checked.
Maria Rangel from Beverly Hills landed a 6-pound, 11-ounce rainbow from shore at Big Virginia Lake. She didn’t share what bait or lure she was using.
Other 6-pound-plus trout this week included a 6-10 from Gull Lake pulled in by Aiden Ozorio, 5, from Fountain Valley who was using PowerBait, and a monster stringer filled at Gull Lake by Jim Brown from Whittier. His biggest was 6 pound, 8 ounces.
Convict Lake continued pumping out bigger fish, including a 6-pound, 2-ounce beauty for Jaren Tanaka from Chatsworth who was working a mini jig from shore.
Robinson Creek has been stocked with larger Bridgeport Fish Enhancement Foundation rainbows, and Tyler Brown from Hilmar connected there with a 6-pound, 5-ounce rainbow using a Sierra Slammer Motor Oil Mini Swimbait.
From south to north, here’s a rundown on current conditions.
Bishop Creek Basin received both DFW and private hatchery fish last week. South Lake, Lake Sabrina, several spots along Bishop Creek, Weir pond, Ron’s Pond and Cardinal Pond were all included.
Jared Smith at South Lake said the lake is rising quickly, but not full yet.
Conditions are ideal for kayaking and the good creek flows at the back of the lake are ideal spots to catch fish. Minijigs, streamers and worm are working best right now. Rental boats and the launch ramp are available.
Most of the limits from Bishop Creek are being taken with bait, including salmon eggs, worms and crickets. The arrival of Idaho trout could pick up the action.
Intake II has been up and down. On the good days, anglers have reported 40-fish days with streamers.
Boat rentals and launching are available at Lake Sabrina and fish to 4-pounds-plus are being caught. Most baits and lures are working, but the hot spots have been at the inlets. As temperatures warm, a good bet at Lake Sabrina is to drift deeper water around the rock piles and flyline nightcrawlers.
With a sigh of relief, Rock Creek Lake Resort is now open with cabin rentals, store and café services. Campgrounds in the canyon are also open now.
Fishing in the canyon has been good, with trout to 5-pounds biting at Rock Creek Lake. Rock Creek below the lake is wide open and stocked, with natural baits such as salmon eggs and worms a good choice.
Anglers willing to hike in from Mosquito Flats are finding a steady bite for wild rainbows, brown and brookies that have not seen the usual amount of pressure until now.
Reports from Convict Lake continue to be rosy, with some of the best fishing continuing at the inlet. But with plenty of recent stocking, the action has expanded, and anglers are checking in with plenty of limits and 5- to 6-pound fish included.
The big waters of Crowley Lake have been wide open the past week, as long as winds are not blowing.
The folks at Crowley Lake Fish Camp say larger browns and rainbows are being caught in 15 to 25 feet of water, but better luck is in deeper water.
McGee Bay, Leighton Springs, Alligator Point, Sandy Point and Big Hilton are all good to go.
Midges worked 12 to 20 inches off the bottom are getting the best results, but streamers are getting looks in the North Arm.
Things have almost returned to normal at Mammoth Lakes, however the road to the lakes basin and campgrounds were still closed at press time. That close is scheduled to be lifted this week.
Rick Flamson at Rick’s Sports Center said anglers who are hiking or renting electric bikes and riding into basin lakes are coming back with big smiles and some nice fish.
“Desert Springs hit all of the basin lakes and they have all been fishing very well,” Flamson said. “We are seeing lots of 3- to 5-pound fish.”
Sierra Slammers are the lure of choice right now.
June Lake Loop waters continue to be well stocked with both DFW and trophy hatchery trout.
June Lake is still producing some nice cutthroat to 4 pounds, and Gull Lake has been hot for larger rainbows. Nightcrawlers and PowerBait have been popular, but slow trolling with Thomas Buoyants has also been a good bet.
Andrew Jones at Silver Lake said fishing there over the past two weeks has been nothing short of spectacular, especially for the big ones.
The fish at Silver Lake have been partial to Pinch Crawlers, Pautzkes Dough Baits, worms, glitter Garlic PowerBait and spinners such as Thomas Buoyants and Kastmasters.
“We have not seen a lot of stringers of fish, but the quality is out of this world,” Jones said.
Flows in Rush Creek are settling down, and the deeper pools are producing some larger rainbows with an occasional brown trout on bait and small lures.
Grant Lake is the place to be for brown trout, especially just before dark in the evenings where a trolled Rapala will often result in an 18- to 21-inch fish.
The great staff at Beaver’s Sporting Goods in Lee Vining almost can’t keep up with the number of huge fish being checked in from Lee Vining Creek. Tube jigs, meal worms and Sierra Slammers are working very well.
Conditions are ideal at Lundy Lake and anglers are reporting fish to 5 pounds, 8 ounces, with “anything garlic” working well.
The word you hear most often lately about fishing at Virginia Lakes is “excellent.”
Native brookies along with holdover rainbows to 6 pounds are being caught. Bait anglers doing best with Pinch Crawlers, Mice Tails and inflated nightcrawlers, while the best lures have been Kastmasters, Thomas Buoyants and Panther Martins. Fly-fishing has been most productive with Twin Lakes Specials, Seal Buggers, Matukas, soft hackle and Copper Johns tied on as droppers.
Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport reports that Bridgeport Reservoir turned on a bit last week with some larger fish taken by both bait anglers and trolling with nightcrawlers, Rapala, Speedy Shiners, Thomas Buoyants and Needlefish.
Reid said the best areas are the East Walker channel out from the Marina or off of Rainbow Point.
Both Twin Lakes are fishing well for 2- to 6-pound fish for both trolling and still fishing.
Thomas Buoyants, Needlefish and Speedy Shiners along with PowerBait, inflated nightcrawlers and Mice Tails are the choice offerings.
Shore anglers are seeing decent action, and the inlets on the backside of Lower Twin have been active.