Martin Strelneck's Blog

Martin Strelneck has been entrenched in the Eastern Sierra for almost four decades. A residet of Lee Vining with his wife Beth,  former Mono County Sheriff and writer for the local newspapers in the regions, the avid hunter and fishermen  has served as WON’s Eastern Sierra Field Reporter and columnist for  almost two decades.
Opening day Sierra conditions continue to improve
With the exception of a few issues caused by low-water levels, high-country conditions are mixed going into two weeks before the opener. Daytime temperatures have been hitting in the high 60s, with nighttime running from the high to mid- 20s and any remaining snow from last year’s “no snow” winter rapidly disappearing.

As a reminder, WON will be again covering all major areas of the Eastern Sierra opening day from Bishop to Bridgeport, and will have full coverage the issue mailed right after the April 26 opener. The digital North and South edition full-color versions will be posted mid-week at (click on Forum), and are still being offered free.

Here’s the latest on conditions:

BISHOP AREA — Bishop Creek drainage, Bishop Creek, Intake 2 ideal condition. Lake Sabrina extremely low down to original lake level. Around a 3/4-mile hike or 4-wheel drive required to reach trout population. Ice probably will be out by opener. Lake Sabrina Boat Landing will be in operation, serving meals.

South Lake basically same condition. Ice iffy after a little ­hiking to reach the lake. Rock Creek Lake road open, lake will be ice-free. Rock Creek Lake Resort closed.

CROWLEY-CONVICT LAKES — Both locations in prime condition. Crowley Lake Fish Camp and Convict Lake Resort in full operation.

MAMMOTH LAKES — Road to lakes basin (Twin Lakes, Mamie, Mary and George) open. Lakes are thawing fast with any ice fishing questionable.

JUNE LAKE LOOP — All four lakes in good condition with Grant Lake on the low side. Launching at Grant Lake Marina probable, but make a last-minute call. Shore launching possible near dam with a 4-wheel drive. Rental boats and campground at marina along with all other locations in full operation.

LEE VINING AREA — Tioga Pass Road (State Route 120) open from Hwy. 395 to closure at Yosemite National Park Gate. Tioga Lake very low. Ellery Lake medium level with ice rapidly thawing. No information regarding road to Saddlebag Lake. Lundy Lake extremely low. Lundy Lake Resort closed. Road to Virginia Lakes open. Little Virginia Lakes off the ice fishing menu. Possible ice fishing at Big Virginia Lake depending on last-minute conditions. Virginia Lake Resort closed.

BRIDGEPORT — Upper and Lower Twin Lakes in good condition. Mono Village and Twin Lakes resorts in full operation, Bridgeport Reservoir low. Launch ramps at Bridgeport Reservoir Marina and the county park high and dry. With the exception of the launch ramp, the marina will be in full operation. Shore launching is available just north of the “Bathtub” near the dam, However, parking is limited. Efforts are underway to provide additional parking at that location.

NORTH MONO COUNTY — West Walker River in excellent condition to the town of Walker — no problem with high water runoff. Topaz Lake low, with launching available at county park. Launching also available at Topaz RF Park, located at the California/Nevada State line. For information regarding Topaz Landing, call (775) 266-3550.

Snow conditions at the 9,500- to 10,000-foot level right around 2 feet and rapidly melting. The local bear population is active. Take care when storing food items in vehicles or at campsites.

Southern Sierra trout opener March 1
Diaz Lake Derby set for same day; West Walker River also debuts that day for first-time early opener with Mono County officials planting the river for early season anglers

LONE PINE/BRIDGEPORT — Saturday, March 1, marks the opening of the Southern Sierra trout season with diehard anglers taking to the waters of the Southern Owens Valley. And to the north, a new “early” opener water, the West Walker River, will be stocked and ready.

The small streams from Independence Creek south on the west side of Hwy. 395 are the target. Barring any last minute weather related problems, anglers can look for stocked DFW catchable in most waters.

Stocking operations for some locations have been adjusted to meet low water conditions. On Independence Creek ,the lower section will be off the menu. Fish are scheduled to be stocked at the upper section of the creek near the Grays campground area. Location for Cottonwood Creek will limited to the upper section close to the end of the road. Look for plants in Georges Creek from the Sand Trap upstream. Water level at the Sand Trap is low, but on the stocking agenda. Lone Pine Creek Sand Trap is on the low side, but last information is it will be stocked along with upstream waters.

Highlight of the early opener is the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce annual Trout Derby headquartered at year-around water Diaz Lake, a few miles south of Lone Pine. Catches from any waters covered by the opener can qualify for prizes including fishing tackles, lodging and outdoor gear provided by local merchants.

Prizes are awarded in several divisions for the heaviest catch, heaviest stringer and tagged fish. In addition the derby features a "Bling bogey " prize, $800 cash, for a winning weight unknown until derby closing time. The derby winner could be a half-pound trout but lures will be thrown thousands of time by regulars hoping to hook some big trout in the lake.

That’s because Diaz will be primed with heavyweight Alpers rainbows to the 8-pound mark along with DFW catchable and oversized broodstock.

On-site derby registration at the lake runs from 6:30 and to 12noon, $10 for adults and $5 for kids. For complete information contact the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, (760) 876-4444,

This year, there’s a new kid on the block. Mono County got the A-Okay from the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission last year to open the West Walker River to year-around The West Walker will also be governed by catch and release regulations with only barbless hooks with only lure or flies ((no bait), with a zero possession up to the April 25 opening of the general season. Following the Nov. 15 closing of the regular season, the river remains open under the special regulations.

But March 1 is the debut of the West Walker River as a year-around water, and the Northern Mono County Chamber of Commerce and Mono County will be stocking the river with rainbow trout averaging around the 2-pound mark. For complete information contact the Northern Mono County Chamber of Commerce, (530) 208-6078,

WON will be on hand to cover both openers in Into and Mono counties, as well as the April 25 traditional opener with eight pages of coverage.

Winding down

The Eastern Sierra's general trout season ended on Nov. 15 and until April, hardcore anglers and those looking for a change from the urban trout fishing scene will be focusing on the year round waters of the Owens Valley and specially regulated streams at the higher elevations.

Of course, season heavyweight honors go to southland angler Paul Gomez for his 20-pound, 8-ounce brown taken mid-November from Rush Creek. His trophy was the heaviest June Lake Loop catch since 1991 when Gary Leese weighed in a 20-pound, 3-ounce from Grant Lake.

Paul's catch came from the popular stream a short distance below Silver Lake. Theory among the locals is during the late fall spawn, the big browns move up from Grant Lake for their reproduction ritual. I can remember many times, after the season closed, jump shooting ducks late November spooking torpedo class browns along the stream.

The historic big brown waters of Upper and Lower Twin Lakes ended the season with a handful of respectable catches around the 10-pound mark, but nothing to make the front page. Early in the season these waters produced nine browns from 10 pounds to 17 pounds;. Maybe it's time for a slot limit if we expect continued catches of trophy class browns.

Looking at the rainbow trout picture catches up to the 10-pound were a weekly event, thanks to Inland Aquaculture plants of Alpers rainbows along with DFW broodstock. Unlike other years, very few complaints surfaced regarding DFW catchable stocking. However, several comments were made relating to the smaller size of the plants.

One reason cited was crowding at the hatcheries in order to meet numbers for stocking quotas. I have heard that next season our stocking quotas may see a 10 percent reduction. Nothing is set in concrete at this point but a benefit of this could be larger plants similar to those filling heavy stringers two years back.

Last week, the DFW stocked right around 300,000 fingerling and sub-catchable rainbows in Crowley Lake. These will be the bread and butter fish for the next opener along with a healthy population of larger carryover fish. Last week, a drive along the lake's north arm, Green Banks and mouth of the Owens River, angler numbers resembled a "mini" opening day. Floattubers were scoring good numbers of rainbows in the 12- to 16-inch range. Fisheries biologist tell me these fish will be in the 2-pound range by the opener.

Checking with area tackle shops and resorts and from personal observation, end-of-the-season angler numbers were down during the final weeks. It wasn't the weather. With the exception of an occasional "weak" cold front moving through, daytime temperatures at the 7,500-foot level were in the low 60s and very little wind.

Theories of a low turnout range from the condition of the general economy to the Southern California trout scene swinging into high gear. One other factor to consider, DFW and Inland Aquaculture terminate high country stocking late October except for the Owens Valley. It appears a good number of anglers have become dependent on "truck trout" when it comes to planning their Sierra vacation. Shortly before closing day, privately funded Alpers rainbows up to the 8-pound mark were stocked in June and Grant lakes and will be showing on the stringers opening day.

It's mid-November now and precipitation has been nonexistent except for a few showers. Right now, water conditions for next season are a major concern. Lake levels are low. For the first time in my 46 years of living in the high country, islands could be seen forming in Crowley Lake. Lack of water and resource management resulted on South Lake and Lake Sabrina being extremely low,and were taken off the DFW stocking schedule, resulting in the landings closing late August. The spinoff was that fish earmarked for those low-level lakes were stocked in the Bishop Creek drainage, making for non-stop catching.

It's still early for the winter season with December, January and February big snow months if mother Nature cooperates. Bottom line, there's going to be fishable water, but conditions could be questionable.

Looking down the road, contrary to past years, the DFW will be stocking the year-round waters of the Owens Valley through next year's opener and plants will alternate between the Owens River and Pleasant Valley Reservoir, depending on access. On the river, look for a mixture of catchables and occasional heavyweight brood stock fish at locations from directly below Tinnemeha Reservoir north to the Hwy. 6 bridge crossing. As in past years,there will be mega plants shortly before the Blake Jones derby early March.

New on the upcoming agenda will be an additional water included on the Mono County year round fishing menu. The West Walker River joins Hot Creek, East Walker River and Upper Owens River as a special regulation water. Effective March 1, until opening day the river will be catch and release, no possession, barbless lure or fly. After the opener general regulations will dictate until Nov. 15 , then back to the special regulations until the next season opener.

On a positive note, in early November, the DWF and California anglers prevailed in a lawsuit litigated in the U.S. District Court challenging the stocking of hatchery reared trout alleging the stocking program was a violation of the Clean Water Act by "adding pollutants. "I can assure you, if the case had gone wrong, there would have been major problems for the stocking program for our state as we know it today. And on another positive note, 2013 was another year where quagga mussels, Willow Fly Catchers, New Zealand mud snails and whirling disease failed to impact high country angling.

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Martin Strelneck is a long-time WON field reporter and columnist living in Lee Vining.

Fall is Sierra prime time

Comfortable temperatures, fewer anglers and a trout population that has been energized by cooler water has been for decades the reward for the fall season angler.And there's the chance at weighing in a trophy wild brown trout judged by pounds rather than inches.

It's also that time of year when the wild trout population experiences a hormonal change approaching spawning time, becoming a bit more aggressive and less choosy when it comes to taking a properly presented offering.



FALL CONDITIONS may see lower water, but the colors and fishing can be spectacular. Bri\ng a fishing rod, a pair of hiking boots and camera. PHOTOS BY MIKE STEVENS

Following well-below average winter precipitation, this year’s water conditions will be a carbon copy of last year. Many lake levels will be on the low — but definitely fishable — side along with the flows in smaller streams. That doesn't equate to “no fish,” just changes in technique.

On the downside, in the Bishop area Lake Sabrina and South Lake, because of extremely low water, have been off the angling menus since late August. However, there won't be any problem with the waters of North Lake, Bishop Creek and Intake 11 producing limits.

Bridgeport Reservoir will be definitely fishable, but at a low-low level. Shore launching small craft near the Bathtub area will work with a little effort. Grant Lake is dropping slowly, but should last out the season.

On the wild trout scene, usually around the first part of October, approaching spawning time changes the attitude and feeding habits of wild brown and brook trout.

Heavyweight browns are the target of a rather obsessed clan of anglers, who make a yearly showing in hopes of topping the state 26-pound, 8-ounce record taken from Upper Twin Lake.Trolling and throwing lures near stream inlet locations where the browns are staging before the upstream run have historically produced bragging catches.

"I'll start throwing big Rapalas around the middle of September." said veteran Bridgeport angler Rick Gieser at Ken's Sporting Goods." Once the water cools, bait anglers should score on Power Bait/floating nightcrawler rigs."

On the flyfishing scene Chad Brizendine at the Troutfitter in Mammothis calling for a solid bite until the snow flies.

"It's a great time of year, the crowds are down and the fish are active," said Brizendine. "Trico patterns in the morning and Caddis and terrestrials afternoon and evening will be consistent producers."

The consensus of DFW biologist and veteran anglers is that just about all the larger Eastern Sierra lakes at lower elevations hold a population of heavyweight browns.

If you're into nonstop action and not size, brook trout (my choice) fill the bill.

Like the browns, they tend to gather near moving inlet or outlet waters. A 12 incher is considered a good-sized catch. But the 8 and 9 inchers are more than abundant and provide outstanding ultra light tackle action and outstanding table fare.

There are scores of one-day in ‘n outbackcountry waters populated with brookies. The colorful east coast import, on the Sierra scene since the early 1900s, will take just about any offering ranging from a size 20 dry fly to Power Bait.Because of their lack of birth control, overpopulation is a tendency. The special limit is 10 fish under 10 inches in addition to regular five fish bag limit — which equates to 15 fish under 10 inches.

On the DFW stocking scene, low water levels will eliminate many of the smaller streams from the stocking schedule by mid October. At the higher elevations truck trout usually call it a season around the end of October. The exception is the larger open year round waters in the Owens Valley (Pleasant Valley Reservoir and Lower Owens River} that usually see plants until, around the first of the year.

Inland Aquaculture (Alpers rainbows) will continue stocking heavyweights through September with a major plant scheduled for mid-month. Privately funded Alpers plants will continue into early October and possibly longer.

"We will be planting a big load of trophy size fish med-September," said Inland Aquaculture (Alpers trout) manager RavenAngeles. "Look for fish 5 pounds and better. Private resorts at June, Convict and Virginia Lakes will be funding plants on into October."

Beginning around early September weather conditions have a tendency to yo-yo. The past two late fall seasons have seen ideal conditions into mid-October before freezing nights are the norm. Later in the season, it's anybody's guess. Going into the last two weeks, die-hards come prepared and can experience snow, freezing temperatures and nonstop catching.

Towards the end of October some landings and resorts close down for the season, so call ahead.

For an added bonus, if you're into the camera scene, beginning around the middle of October Mother Nature paints the landscape with fall colors that rival those found on the east coast.

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Martin Strelneck is a longtime WON staffer and High Country reporter who lives in Lee Vining.

Early and late

It's been a hot early summer in the high country, water temperatures have been great for swimming but have made it a bit more challenging when it comes to stringing enough trout for dinner.

Over the last four decades I've seen more and more of what I term “comfort” anglers.” Hitting the water around mid-morning, enjoying the warm temperatures and scenery — sitting in a folding chair and soaking bait and waiting for an occasional hungry trout to swim by.

A few weeks back, I swung by Grant Lake around noon. Bait soakers were numerous along the shoreline at privy point, and there were a fair amount of trollers on the water. A quick check revealed a few anglers had a couple of stockers on the stringers, but overall the catching wasn’t on the active side.

That same day, around 6:30 p.m., I went back to the lake, taking a couple of house guests who wanted a few fish take home. The lake’s angling population was two shore fishermen and two trollers, a significant change from earlier in the day.

Fishing the back shore under less than ideal conditions we picked up eight trout soaking Power Bait and tossing a black Wooly Bugger. The bite didn't kick in until around 7:30 and was on until 8:30.

What’s the point? If you want to fill a stringer during the hot "dog days" mid summer, you have a lot better chance following the two-hour rule — first two hours in the morning and last two in the evening before and after the sun hits the water.

In Mono County, DFG regulations dictate fishing hours one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset For the summer months that makes it legal to begin soak a bait around 5 a.m. with closing time around 8:45 p.m.To the south, Inyo County regulations allow for around the clock angling.

I’m not much of an early riser. My choice for the two hours is the evening. The main advantage of the early hours is very seldom will you encounter any wind, with the breeze usually beginning to blow around noon picking up in velocity into the afternoon hours.

Ideal locations for late evening are when the wind is blowing from your back out over the water. This makes for favorable conditions for going for a fly/bubble rig. with the wind blowing insects out over the water.

And don’t exercise the 50-yard cast. The trout are in close to shore feeding. It’s not unusualto see fish taking insects 10 to 15 feet from shore. Last week a pair of chunky Grant Lake browns naileda Black Wooly Bugger just when when the fly was coming out of the water.

The one warm weather exception to the two hour rule is the high elevation lakes, 9,000-feet elevation and higher. Colder water makes for active feeding just abut any time of day, but it’s still more productive early and late.

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Martin Strelneck is a longtime Lee Vining resident, retired three-term Mono County Sheriff, and a field reporter and columnist on the Sierra fishing and hunting scene for WON. His column appearswhen he get a hankering to write one.

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