Eastern Sierra Opener

Updates on conditions and catches during opening weekend 2010 in the Eastern Sierra.
8½ pounder from Lower Twin tops opener list
Late update, 8½ pounder biggest of opener:

An afternoon catch from shore from Lower Twin Lake near Bridgeport upped the ante in the opening day big fish chase as an 8-pound, 10½-ounce rainbow trout by Miles Foreman of Valley Center on a Mepps spinner appears to be the opening day whopper, reported WON staffer Martin Strelneck Sunday morning.The fish was photographed and weighed at Ken’s in Bridgeport.

Until that report, the biggest fish was a 6½ pound Alpers from Bishop Creek, followed by a 5-9  brown from Lower Twin, caught Saturday by Jeff Tyson of Orange on a Rapala.

One theory of why Crowley had such a great brown trout opener, said Rick Flamson at Rick’s Sporting Goods in Mammoth, is that the DFG is planning additional cutts and brown, in small sizes, in the lake just prior to the opener, 40,000 of them this year.

“It gets them fired up,” said Flamson said of the infusion of small fish. Her added the fishery is getting better and better, and guides and knowledgeable anglers can target them at will. “We catch ’em all the time and release them, In my opinion, the DFG is doing a great job planting the lake. That’s what I think.”

Look for the pics and more on the catches in WON this week.

Sunday morning update

Suntan weather, early limits, moderate crowds kick off the Sierra trout season

The Eastern Sierra opener did not disappoint with beautiful weather, easy access to lakes, and little wind. The Saturday tradition looked to be well-attended well along Highway 395, but last year's bitter cold and heavy snow and this year's fuel prices and two major campgrounds being closed likely contributed to a moderate turnout for the opener.

Not that lakes weren't  rimmed with anglers, but the promise of great weather and access to lakes after a mild winter didn't seem to drive anglers in anticipated high numbers. Or the mild winter and several all-year areas may have caused many fishermen to skip the opener after heavily fishing the year around waters all winter.

Those who did make the drive up 395 found perfect conditions. There was a brisk wind in the morning but it diminished as the day went on, and 75 degree temps found some strange sights for opening day... shirtless anglers in boats, and even some standup paddlers in Crowley,

As far as fishing, it appears as of Sunday morning, based on WON reporters at all major areas, that a 6½ pounder was the biggest fish opening day. It was caught on Bishop Creek and brought to t he Rainbow Trout Festival in Bishop. WON will have photos of the fish this week in the May 4 issue. The brown trout in Crowley was excellent, and the general word at the lake and based on this reporter's experience was that the bite went off like a cannon early, then died off quickly on the shore, and then picked up again for trollers in the middle of the lake in early afternoon.

Was it epic fishing? No. The perfect weather likely gave anglers a short, short window of opportunity from shore. Trollers seemed to have more consistent action during the day. There were several 4-pound brown trout caught at Crowley, from Crooked Creek and many off Alligator Point and Sandy Point on the troll.

Convict was like many lakes... wide-open with quick limits, but no big fish over 3½ pounds. June Lake Loop recovered from heavy winds a few days before the opener and had a beautiful day, but quick limits was the rule, then the bite slowed down quickly. Earlier was better, was the common opinion, and also that it felt more like July than April.

More reports are still coming in ...but in all, it was great opener with moderate crowds, quick limits, no huge fish, but suntan weather...look for full reports, possible late big-fish reports from some areas.. and dozens of photos in this week's WON weekly, on the newsstands May 4, and updates on upcoming events in the Sierra as the season continues...

Pat McDonell

Friday night blog:

The weather is perfect, no wind after heavy gusts yesterday, and most lakes are open and have been open. In fact, it was such a mild winter, this is the first year I can remember that the road to Lake Mary in Mammoth Basin was plowed by opening day. The icefishing in upper lakes will be risky. The only accessible lake (by road) that will have decent icefishing opening day will be Virginia Lakes. The general feeling among anglers, writers and biologists at the annual Bishop Chamber of Commerce Press dinner is that the fishing will be the exact opposite of last year's trout opener that saw cold weather, poor access after heavy winter snowfall and poor fishing over the weekend.

Look for quick limits and big fish that have been feeding all winter, especially at Crowley that got a bonus plant by the DFG over the winter of 40,000 fish, half brown trout and half cutts. That was a suprise announcement last night by DFG personnel at the dinner. The DFG surveys taken indicate Crowley's planted fingerlings that have been on the chew because the lake never froze over will be in the robust  1½-pound range tomorrow.

It also appears the number of fishermen in the area is far greater than the past two years, due to the projected good weather and fishing. Big events for the opener are the Rainbow Trout Festival on Saturday in Bishop, the Fred J. Hall Memorial Derby at Crowley, the Monster Fish Contest at Ernie's on the June Loop,  and the Bridgeport Derby. The Mammoth Lakes Fishmas Festival at the Village  kicked off 50 days of special Fishmas promotions and fundraising for trout planting in Mono County. It  started Friday night with music, beer, seminars and prizes and continues through Saturday. In all, it looks like a perfect opener, now that the winds have gone. Temps over the weekend will be in the low 70s during the day.

WON will will have full coverage of the opener in this week's May 4 edition, and this blog, started Friday, April 27, will have any news of huge trout taken over the weekend as it becomes available, plus results of the major derbies.

Pat McDonell

Crowley tops the leader board with 11-4


While frigid Crowley Lake was a tougher customer for anglers looking for nonstop action, quality emerged on opening day at this traditional spot with an 11-4 brown from Crooked Creek topping the Sierra opening day list

WON Staff Writer

CROWLEY LAKE — Crowds were a little light, the air was downright frigid and fishing overall was slow, but the quality of the fish was dead-on at Crowley Lake as rainbows and cutts were in the 2-to5-pound class and a procession ofbrown trout were topped by the Eastern Sierra opener’s top catch, an 11-pound, 4-ounce brown trout.

That fish was caught at dawn by Sanger, CA angler Lance Bussean, 52, who reeled in the brown trout after trolling a third of the way into Crooked Creek with a broken-back No. 13 black and silver Rapala connected to10-pound Berkley Vanish. The rod? Not sure. The reel? An old Mitchell 300 that Busseanbought 40 years ago when he was 12 years old. His buddy and fellow co-worker Bob Jungman of Fresno did the honors with the net.

THE BIGGEST – This 11-pound, 4 ounce brown trout from Crowley Lake’s Crooked Creek area by Sanger, CA angler Lance Bussean on a No. 13 broken back Rapala was the biggest opening trout of the Eastern Sierra opener.

“He’s my boss,” said Jungman. “He reels ‘em in and I net ‘em.”

The pair, who work in sales at Valley Yellow Pages, have fished Crowley for years, but they were looking at something bigger. A wallhanger. They got an opportune tip from law enforcement. It was right ticket to success, you might say.

The day before the opener the two anglers were at Crowley Lake Fish Camp, getting their small aluminum boat checked in and launched when they saw Layne Garrett, manager of the Crowley Lake Fish Camp, and Mono County Sheriff John Pelichowski get out of a patrol car.

“We were just back fromchecking out the North Landing area, and when we came back Lance and Bob were there,” said Garrett.

Said Bussean, “We asked the sheriff what he would do to catch a bigger fish, because we wanted to do something different than the usual Crowley day of 50 smaller fish. We wanted a bigger one. He said that for a big brown, he’d troll Crooked Creek before light with a broken back Rapala. So that what we did.”

Good advice, and it came from the right guy. Sheriff John Pelichowski is not just any Sierra angler with advice and a firearm, said Garrett, landing manager.

“John’s dad, John Sr. worked for the camp concessionaire John Frederickson in the ‘90s when the camp and all the facilities and the buildings were being built or moved in. John and his brother Jason worked for me for a while when I first started managing the camp, andthey know the lake. They all do.What’s funny is that the kids are now all grown up, and they’re big guys, and both in law enforcement. John is a sheriff, and Jason works at the Bridgeport jail, so we laugh about how one brother hooks ‘em and the other one books ‘em.”

GOOD FRIENDS and co-workers Lance Bussean of Sanger and Bob Jungman of Fresno share in the limelight of the biggest trout of the Eastern Sierra trout opener on Saturday, an 11-pound, 4-ounce brown trout from Crowley Lake. The acted on a tip from a local sheriff who grew up fishing the lake, and it paid off. WON PHOTO MY PAT McDONELL

The 11-4 brown was not the only one the pair of anglerscaught. They had four fish, the others beingin the 4 pound class. Most wereon the Rapala, and one was on an Owner Rippin’ Minnow65 perch pattern lure, a far smaller lure than the Rapala. The fish were ready for battle.

“It took about 15 minutes to get him in,” said Bussean. “When they are that big you don’t want to horse ‘em in.” The fish was not only the biggest of the Sierra opening day weekend (two browns of 8 and 9 pounds at Bridgeport fell short of topping the list) but it also won Bussean the big fish title for the 13th annual Fred J. Hall Memorial Opening Day Big Fish Tournament. The victory earned them $500 from show producer Bart Hall, a $300 pontoon rental from Crowley Lake Fish Camp, a Daiwa rod and reel combo, a Davidson Taxidermy fish mount and assorted Owner clothing and lures.

Second place in the contest was Paul Holder of Santa Clarita who weighed in a 5-pound, 5 ½-ounce cutt. The third biggest fish of the day was another cutt,a 5-2 by Richard Rojas of Palmdale, while Marisa Jobs of Santa Clarita caught a 4-5 brown, and Sean Miller of Simi Valley clocked in with a 4-pound, 5-ounce brown trout that won the Kid’s Division in the Hall Memorial event. He won $200 from Bart Hall, a $100 boat rental, a Daiwa rod reel combo and assorted Owner swag.

Overall, you could say the action and the weather was the Big Chill. Temps were in the teens in the morning and this reporter was thankful for ski gloves and that no winds were attached to the air temps. Fifteen degrees at dawn was low enough.On the positive side,not only had the windsabated for the opener after the lake for two days priorlooked like a scene from Deadliest Catch ,waters wereflat calm and the sun was out by 10 thaw the hardy anglers

There’s no question the traditional Crowley Lakestringer-fest of fat Eagle Lake strain rainbows did not happen.It was a pick. Some had a few fish, some had a hard-earned stronger of quality bows. The Eagle Lake fish seemed to have lockjaw

“Fishing wasn’t exactly wide open, but the quality was obviously there,” said Layne Garrett,of theFish Camp.

There were a few grumblings among anglers who lined the shore and expected better action. The reason? Actually, there were a few, and were expected.Among them, the cold water from a massive snowpack that has just begun to melt, frigid winds to 60 mph for two days that settled down Friday night, and air temps that were in the teens contributed to the slower-than-normal bite.

“I’ll tell you why,” said one boater who worked all day for a 4-fish stringer. “It was because the DFG didn’t plant this year.” Not true. It wasn’t for lack of fish. The lake was planted late last year with 210,000 sub-catchable 5-inch Eagle Lake rainbows andan additional 150,000 rainbowswere later added.

In addition, earlier this season DFG had put infingerling plants of an additional 180,000 rainbows along with browns and cutthroat trout. Blame it on the cold air and water and heavy winds, but the quality was certainly there, from this writer’s viewpoint on shore and on the lake. It was a tough day trolling for this writer, but the fish I got, and had slammin’ jamming hits on, were fat Eagle Lake 2 pounders. My brother-in-law Bob Lawrence and I would have liked more to reel in and take home, but we’ll be back in late June for our share.

That said, we should be fair. There were plenty of solid stringers. A WON mid-morning inspection ofthe largely vacantfish cleaning facility indicated that if you knew the lake well, and understood how the cold water changes the fish patterns, you’d score. Most just stayed with what has always worked. It clearly did not. The cheese moved.

One family group that knew the “game” was made up of Cameron Ruth, 13, of El Paso, TX, his 15-year-old brother Kaelin, PatRollans of Los Angeles and his father Mike Rollans ofPhoenix, AZ. Mike is 70 years old. “I’ve been coming up here for 58 years,” he said. The group scored near limits for all four. Cameron had a 3-pound, 4-ounce rainbow to top an impressive stringer. All the fish the group was cleaning were in the 3-pound class. They said they used pink Rippin’ shad lures while trolling 8 feet deep along the Chalk Cliffs.

For the most part, trollers using flashers, banana weights, lead core line and downriggers to work the depths did the best. Flashy lures, slow trolled deep in dropoffs did best. Shore anglers had a tough day.

The season, you might say, started slowly last weekend, but the fun has just begun for Crowley Lake.

THE CROWLEY LAKE marina area opening day morning. Crowds were a little lighter than usual. But those who stayed home missed a beautiful weekend opener. <br /><br />• IT WAS NO FLUKE that the biggest trout of the opener, an 11-4, was caught at Crooked Creek, There were a total of four big browns caught that morning at dawn by Lance Bussean of Sanger, and Bob Jungman of Fresno who netted the fish. One of the browns was caught on a smaller lure, an Owner Rippin’ Minnow 65 in a perch pattern. <br /><br />• THE CLEANING TABLE was not as busy as it usually is opening day. At right, Cameron Ruth, 13, of El Paso, TX, Pat Rollins of Los Angeles, Kaelin Ruth, 15, of El Paso and at left, Mike Rollins. 70, of Phoenix, AZ scored quality stringers, topped by Cameron’s 3-pound, 4-ounce rainbow on a rolled pink shad lure at the Chalk Cliffs.

Crowley kicked out a bunch of quality browns and cutthroats.

Opening day was all you could ask for weather wise, but it was a cold night despite a day-long thaw and a lot of ice scum was back on Gull and June when we left for Crowley, but there were plenty of boats to keep it chopped up. I don't know how much the trout helped. I'm stitting in the Double Eagle again watching the Lakers and the bar just filled up with guys who fished June Lake who said it was tough, but some fish were caught. Crowley was a pick but a lot of  beautiful fish came in.

These guys all came in too late for the Crowley Lake Fred Hall Memorial Big Fish Contest. Two great cutthroats, Trevor Moldin left, Dave Chamberlin right, and a beautiful brown, a 5.25, by Brad Sheridan.

Got a late star with Dennis Yamamoto of Owner and Steve Suveg on Crowley, a little after 7, but picked up a nice fish on the pink Owner Mira-Shad,  a skinny fish I hooked that was still all of two pounds. We should have stayed in that area off Sandy, but long story short came back later and picked away on the troll. Water was in the mid-40s in McGee Bay and warmer in the North Arm. We went to bait and Suveg got a couple 3 pounders.

Dennis Yamamoto of Owner and Steve Suveg of Hollywood with one of Suveg's better trout. This one was on yellow glitter Power Bait.

We came in in time for the weigh in for the Fred Hall Memorial Trophy but a few guys with big fish didn't. Some folks with big fish didn't come back for the awards. Kevin Neitzke of Saugus was one of the last youngsters to weigh and his 3.6-pound brown caught on a fluorescent green Needlefish won him $200 from Bart Hall plus a Daiwa Rod and Reel from Lane and Beth Garrett of Crowley Lake Fish Camp. He also got some Berkley Trilene line and a hat.

Kevin Neitzke with his 3-6 brown that topped the youth division and got him $200 from Bart Hall and a Daiwa rod and reel from Crowley Lake Fish Camp.

Nick Lawrence has been fishing Crowley for 15 years, coming up with his grandfather Gerald Lawrence who has been fishing Crowley for 50 years. Nick nailed a 4-14 1/2 cutthroat on a red Roostertail behind a Dave Davis and won the Fred Hall Memorial adult trophy complete with $500 from Bart, a Daiwa rod and reel, Trilene line and a free mount from Davidson Taxidermy (which makes beautiful trophies, I saw them last night at the press dinner in Bishop).

Grandpa Gerald Lawrence and Fred Hall Memorial winner, and grandson, Nick Lawrence with the winning cutthroat trout.

Blue skies and an incredibly beautiful Eastern Sierra morning make the perfect setup for opening day tomorrow. I don't know if I'll be able to get any photos up today, but the plan is to rig up for some fishing and after a run around the June Lake Loop to check things out and head on down to Pleasant Valley Reservoir for a little warm up bait dunking.
Blue skies and one day to go. The view from the front yard.
It was crazy checking out all the activity as the various businesses up here in God's got ready right down to the wire. I dropped by the Trout Fly/Troutfitter after some great powder runs at Mammoth (it must have been insane this morning) and a burger and a beer at Grumpy's Sports Bar and was talking to Granite and Alex as they stocked the shelves. I'll be doing the reports a lot of the weekends this season and wanted to meet the faces behind the voices. I was about to leave (after getting some tips on East Walker River rigs) when owner Kent Rianda came in and there was a big bustle.
"Sorry Rich, but a case of reels didn't come in, but it will be here tomorrow," said Rianda. "Otherwise I would have had a big empty spot on the wall."  Rianda said he is booked to guide the first three days of the season on Crowley and will be deep water indicator fishing. He came up with a sliding indicator that makes it easy to fish the 19 to 20 feet the trout like to hang at this time of year.
As I mentioned in yesterday's blog (you can always hit the link above and check it and the photos out) I also went into Ernies and they had tackle scattered everywhere, making the final transition from ski to fish. Traditionally they'll be open all night tonight.
The Fern Creek Lodge, which added a bunch of tackle last year, was closed and they were rearranging their store so that the first thing you walk into is fishing gear, not canned goods. Down the way Silver Lake Resort's store and killer cafe were also in the final stages of preparation to open for the season today.
Before I came up I got an e-mail from Patti at Sabrina and she said their store and coffee shop, complete with homemade pie, opens tomorrow. The lake is all but drained for repairs by So Cal Edison, but there will be plenty of water and Edison always makes sure there are plenty of trout. There are already a bunch of rainbows stacked up in the water that's left.
A bunch of the sportfishing industry is either already here or on the way. Dennis Yamamoto of Owner Hooks made his rounds yesterday and will be hanging out at Crowley today. Crowley figures to be the epicenter of the opener, but don't count out Bridgeport or Lower Twin for the big brown. Speaking of big browns, they notoriously bite best after ice out and for once in a blue moon that will happen on Grant during the season. There's a lot of anticipation, that's for sure.
Speaking of anticipation, the Berkley contingent is arriving in Bishop today and Marlon Meade always hits Bishop Creek just after midnight since night fishing is allowed in Inyo County. The Berkley folks will be all over the Sierra hot spots taking photos and giving out prizes. They'll be at Crowley at 3 p.m. tomorrow for the awards.
We've got Bill Karr covering the Bishop area and the return of Rainbow Days, I'll be at Crowley fishing with Dennis opening day, Pat will cover Convict, Ernie has the Loop and Martin has Bridgeport. And all of it will be in WON this coming week. Some of it will be here, but it does get hectic, so no promises.
The Lakers are on in the Double Eagle bar (which has wireless) and the Nevada Low is still dropping some light snow on the Loop. There's a ton of water for boaters on both June and Gull and when the good weather comes tomorrow (c'mon baby) there will be even more. Gull is almost 80 percent open thanks to heroic work and June has everything from Boulder Lodge to the reeds (in summer) along the summer homes almost out to the large granite outcropping. You can see rotten channels in June that should mean more open water. Here's some photos.

Gull Lake Thursday April 22 from the marina. Still a little work to do to get the snow out of the boats but hopefully the sun will do that tomorrow.

This is the view looking along the "reeds" from June Lake Marina.

Looking towards June Lake's Big Rock Marina (the far dock) and the shoreline in front of Boulder Lodge.

There's thin ice along the shore on the beach side of June and it may be dangerously enticing unless it opens up more. Oh Ridge! campground is plowed while Silver Lake did a great job of getting their full hook-up RV Park open. If you're thinking of bringing your rig, that's something to consider. They'll be picking up the phone at 7 a.m. tomorrow for reservations (760) 648-7256.

Stopped by Ernie's and Mike Logue was there helping the boys get the legendary June Lake Tackle store ready for the opener. "This is nothing we haven't seen before," he said, "but did you drive down the Loop and see those lakes?"

Grant was an amazing sight, something I've never seen a couple days before the opener. But the Marina and launch ramp facility is all cleared of snow and I heard they're going to open water on Friday.

Grant Lake looking past Privy Point towards the marina on Thursday April 22.

Seems to be lightening up but still snowing as of 11 a.m. 4-22 in the June Loop. It's definitely getting warmer and the roads should be fine by this evening. Here's the forecast from the NWS Reno office :
So it's looking like perfect weather for the opener more access should open up by opening morning. Headed to Mammoth. Will report when I get back.
Rich Holland
Drove in last night to clear skies and Venus close enough to touch. Roads were perfectly clear and the breeze that was strong on the way up was not to be found up in June Lake. By light of the half moon could see enough progress has been made that all the rental boats on June and Gull should have just enough elbow room to fish. Can't see much this morning, since it is snowing again. That's supposed to clear out tonight and the stuff hasn't been sticking to the asphalt. But it has been sticking to the snow still on the ground. That had shrunk substantially in the week or so since I was here last, but folks are going to have to use great caution accessing streams and inlet areas. The ice at June Loop level is plentiful but rotten. Martin will have an update that will be posted soon, as it turns out DFG did get a bunch of fresh trout in open waters. There is lots of opportunity up here. The two big reservoirs, Crowley and Bridgeport, are wide open and Convict and Lower Twin at Bridgeport remain ice free. If you want to ice fish, go to Virginia Lakes, the road is (was) plowed.The East Walker River is easy to access and has been seeing a lot of traffic the last few weeks in the wild trout section below the dam.
If you're headed for Crowley and bringing your own boat or even canoe, it has to clean and dry for inspection. They have an inspection site in Bishop by the Von's at the junction of 395 with Hwy 6 that will be open until 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) and from 7 a.m. til 10 p.m. Friday. Inspections are also being conducted at Crowley. Tune into 1610 am in Bishop for more info. Think I'm going to head over to Mammoth for some powder. Was going to go to Topaz for trout fishing, but the only stretch of 395 that calls for chains is in the West Walker River Canyon and might as well enjoy the snow rather than battle it, 4wd or no. More later.
-- Rich Holland

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