WIDE OPENER: Eastern Sierra locked and loaded

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THE WATER WILL BE VERY HIGH this season at Crowley Lake, but the Marina is all set for the Opener and fishing should be outstanding.
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Eastern Sierra prime for epic opener

BY ERNIE COWAN

MAMMOTH LAKES—Opening weekend for the 2024 general Eastern Sierra Trout season will be all about quantities.

There should be less snow and ice, more open water, more fish, and at press time, predictions for lots of nice weather. That’s the amount of what’s needed for a very, Merry Fishmas.

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As always, when dealing with the High Country, things can change quickly, but there seems to be a level of optimism this year as the clock clicks down to Fishmas.

From Lone Pine to Bridgeport, a check by WON found the veterans of opening days were feeling good about the size of the welcome mat being extended this year.

Unlike last year where a record amount of snow and ice kept many areas closed and even delayed some marina openings, the most popular Sierra waters will again be fishable this year on opening weekend.

Efforts by local landings, tackle shops and merchants continue to raise money to stock trophy fish, and that means many anglers will head home from opening weekend with bragging rights and a new personal best trout to show off.

In general, most of the waters below 7,500 feet will be free of ice. Higher elevation lakes may still have some ice, and it could be unsafe. Be sure to check before going out and use extreme caution.

To sum it up, Fishmas 2024 seems to be about as close to a “normal” opener as possible in the Eastern Sierra.

Crowley Lake in Mammoth is one of the most popular opening weekend destinations, and that’s not going to change this year. Last year, due to late season storms there was lots of ice, and it was 50/50 if it would be clear as opening day approached.

The good news this year is the lake has been free of ice most of the winter and has already received plants of trophy rainbows.

“We are expecting to have great spring conditions and a very well stocked lake,” said Abby Thomason at Crowley Lake Fish Camp. “DFW has been stocking with numbers beyond what they did previously to help the lake recover after a few tough seasons when the hatcheries were not producing. It has been a mild winter so the fish should be growing and hungry, which means a great opener and early season.”

The only downside at Crowley is the quantity of water. Anglers should be aware that the lake is full to the brim, and this means many areas will not be accessible until water levels drop.

“We want to remind everyone that we will not be able to open shoreline camping and will only have very limited space in Beaver Cove for walk-ins. We do not recommend rigs over 25 feet,” Thomason said.

Additionally, the road to North Landing is submerged and impassable, so there will be no camping or day use there. For the latest Crowley information, visit crowleylakefishcamp.com.

Let’s make the south-to-north run along the Eastside to do a more detailed look at conditions for opening day and beyond at your favorite location.

 

Lone Pine to Big Pine—Despite a healthy snowpack this winter, higher elevations are still locked in ice. This means creek flows are not raging.

The Lower Owens will be stocked as will creeks flowing into the Owens from the Sierra.

With lots of water still locked in the High Country, this could mean some good small stream fishing well into the season for those anglers who like to hike and dip the pools, often holding 2- to 5-pound rainbows.

This is especially fun for early season anglers before summer temperatures heat things up at lower elevations.

As the season warms up, don’t overlook the river and some of the warm water ponds south of Lone Pine, offering bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill and carp action.

 

Bishop Creek Canyon, Lake Sabrina, South Lake, North Lake and Intake II and Lower Owens River—Ron Graves at Mac’s Sporting Good in Bishop has been watching opening day action for 14 years. He’s optimistic about this year.

“Well, the weather forecast is good, and we are already seeing some good fishing at Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the Owens River,” he said. “All the lakes are full, and Intake II is already open (winter regulations), free of ice and the bite has been good.”

Creeks in the area will be stocked before Fishmas, and it looks like flows will still be fishable on opening day.

Bishop Creek Canyon, with three primary lakes, several intake ponds and miles of creek to fish, also offers extended season action because of the elevation and waters that will remain frozen for a month or more.

Jared Smith who operates South Lake Landing and Lake Sabrina predicts ice at those two lakes on opening weekend.

“At this point we don’t know if the ice will be safe for fishing,” Smith said.

The road to South Lake should be open but may not be cleared of snow beyond Parchers Resort for opening weekend.

North Lake Road typically opens in May.

As the season warms and the lakes fill from winter runoff, things get prime around June.

If this season’s runoff does not get excessive, also look for some excellent stream fishing in both forks of Bishop Creek, where both DFW and trophy rainbows will be stocked.

 

Mammoth Lakes area, including Rock Creek Lake, Convict Lake, Mammoth Basin and Red’s Meadow, Crowley Lake—Jim King, the long-time owner of Rock Creek Lake Resort reports that there is still more than two feet of snow at the lake, and it is covered with ice.

Of course, a few days of warm weather could change that, but Rock Creek Lake will likely be ice fishing for the opener,” King said. “It could be unsafe, so be very careful.”

He reminded anglers that the ring of open water around the ice is always a great place to catch some hungry trout for those holdover trophy rainbows stocked late last season.

The good news is the road has been cleared to the lake and some parking areas cleared by county crews.

King said current plans are to have snow cleared and the resort in operation by Memorial Day.

Elevations climb beyond the Lake, and King said it will be a while before back country lakes are fishable.

Convict Lake has been clear for weeks and will be well stocked with both trophy holdovers and new fish. Typically, this is one of the Eastern Sierra opening weekend hot spots, with the annual “Round-Up at the Lake” launching on Sunday, April 28. The campground opens on April 26.

Mammoth Lakes Basin is generally one of those places that blooms for trout fishing later in the season, and that won’t be different this year.

Rick Flamson at Rick’s Sport Center in Mammoth Lakes said the basin this year will be a “hike or snowmobile destination.”

“Some years anglers could ride bikes, but not this year. There’s just too much snow to bike,” he said.

Gates are closed at Twin Lakes, and roads are not likely to be open into the basin until Memorial Day weekend.

This means those lakes will be not see much pressure and prime for action just as the summer peaks arrives.

The Road to Red’s Meadow will not be open, and construction schedules could limit access later in the season. WON will provide updates on road access as the season progresses.

As reported above, opening weekend at Crowley Lake will see some areas closed due to high water, but that just means those spots won’t get a lot of pressure until later in the season. That’s a good thing.

June Lake Loop, including June, Gull, Silver and Grant lakes and Rush Creek—The four lakes in the June Loop always draw big Fishmas crowds, and it looks like this year’s opener will be the perfect gift.

All lakes will be ice free, well stocked and nearly full. Did we say fish?

“We’re putting in trophies before, as is the county. I’m sure the state will stock as well,” said Jeremy Ross at Ernie’s Tackle in June Lake.

The lack of snow should give anglers good lake access. The annual June Loop Monster Trout Derby will return this year after the hiatus last season due to the incredible amounts of snow.

Ross said the derby is open to anglers fishing any open waters in the loop. Fish need to be checked in at Ernie’s Tackle by 6 p.m. opening day. Prizes are awarded in several adult and youth categories and the 7 p.m. ceremony typically draws a huge crowd.

June, Gull, Silver and Grant lakes are in great shape, with high water, good shore access and fish that have been feeding aggressively for several weeks. Opening weekend anglers are reminded that fishing at Rush Creek between Silver and Grant Lakes is not open until Memorial Day. This regulation was adopted to preserve the excellent trophy brown trout that spawn there.

Fishing in the loop offers enough variety to keep anglers smiling throughout the season. As warmer weather arrives, lakes are deep enough to still produce some hawgs from the deeper holes.

Lee Vining Area, including Lee Vining Creek, Tioga Pass area and Lundy Lake—The best action in the Lee Vining area is Lee Vining Creek. This year, anglers won’t be frozen out with yards of deep snow.

Wayne Beaver at Beaver’s Sporting Goods said Lower Lee Vining Campground will be open, and the creek already stocked with trophy ‘bows.

“The runoff should be ideal for the opener,” Beaver said.

He also reminded anglers that Lee Vining Creek is open to winter fishing, and that means angles can get in a few practice casts if they arrive before opening day of the general season.

The road to Yosemite from Lee Vining is already being plowed and should be open to Ellery Lake by Fishmas, Beaver said.

“It will still be frozen, but maybe there will be some ice fishing,” he said.

Lundy Lake has a new owner, and anglers can expect to see boat rentals and a store operation as the season unfolds.

Bridgeport area, including Virginia Lakes. Bridgeport Reservoir, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes—Unlike last year, the road to Virginia Lakes might be open in time for Fishmas. This should provide anglers with drive-to access to some pretty good ice fishing.

As the season unfolds, the higher elevation Virginia Lakes provide some monster trout. Plans again this year call for the stocking of trophy rainbows to join the schools of bigs hanging around from last season.

Bridgeport Reservoir is another prime location that will be in great shape for this year’s opening weekend.

There is no snow to limit shore access, the lake and marina are full of water, and all services will be available. The Bridgeport Fish Enhancement Foundation will continue to stock the big water and the winter snowpack should keep water levels and temperatures ideal well into the season.

Both Upper and Lower Twin Lakes are clear of ice and have been stocked prior to opening weekend. Mono Village at Upper Twin opens to camping on April 22.

Misti Sullivan at Twin Lakes Resort on Lower Twin said Forest Service campgrounds in the area will open on April 25.

Typically, the Twins produce some monster fish early in the season, sometimes including double-digit browns.

Sullivan said her trout group has also stocked Robinson Creek with trophy rainbows for opening weekend.

Creek flows on Robinson and other creeks will be ideal for opening weekend and should produce some great fishing for anglers who enjoy hiking and dipping.

With water levels again high this year, trout should remain more active throughout the summer, and this is good news for the prospect of another spectacular fall fishing season.

 

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