BISHOP — There was just something in the air, it seemed, as the sun dawned April 28 on the opening day of trout season in the Eastern Sierra, and it was more than the warm temperatures, lack of snow and fully-stocked streams and lakes.
It was optimism! Bigger crowds of anglers than the past few years had shown up for the fishing, and according to many of the local businesses, bookings for the upcoming summer were coming in at a rapid clip.
Opening day itself dawned calm and clear with temperatures forecasted for the high 70s and low 80s in the valley floor, but it was below freezing when I stepped out of the truck at Four Jeffreys Campground on the South Fork Bishop Creek at 6 a.m. exactly to try my hand at fishing before the sun came up.
I unlimbered my ultra-light rod with 4-pound fluorocarbon line, put on a small treble, added a 1-inch Berkley Power Nymph and a Yellow Jacket Pautzke salmon egg with no weight and cast it across the pool, retrieving it with slight jerks. Fifteen minutes later I landed my 5th chunky rainbow, all of them over a pound. Welcome to opening day!
I headed up the road to Lake Sabrina, and there were already over 30 cars in the parking lot parked at the foot of the launch ramp, and what a show! There were trout jumping and rods bending everywhere I looked! The lake was nearly ice free, and the resort already had a dock in the water with boats to rent. Everyone was catching fish.
I approached one group, and it was the Bair clan of Brad, Eric and Chris, along with friends Melanie Lazaros and David Allen, from Canyon Country, who I also interviewed last year. They had 14 trout on stringers out of a possible 25 fish, and they had been releasing the small ones. The fish were real quality, and according to Brad Bair, the fish were hitting anything you threw in the water. It was only 6:30 a.m.!
FISHING AT LAKE SABRINA was outstanding, and Brad, Eric and Chris Bair, along with Melanie Lazaros and David Allen, all from Canyon Country, had 14 of their 25 fish limits by 6:30 a.m. They were hitting "anything", according to Brad. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
A group from Ventura consisting of Scott Wilcox, Freddie Garcia, Tim Falk and Danny Allen all hiked to the mouth of Sabrina, encountering no snow, and fished the inlet, where they caught "40 or 50" trout, releasing all but the 3 biggest, which weighed in at 1-pound, 13 ounces, 1-pound, 9 ounces and 1-pound 12 ounces.
Anglers along the North Fork were at all their favorite holes, and I saw plenty of trout being caught.
I then headed back down and up the South Fork, and there were anglers already on the water, and plenty more climbing out of their cars and pickups ready for their first casts. Flows and clarity in the stream were perfect.
I drove up to South Lake, to find an ice sheet covering most of the middle of the lake, with open water along the edges. I spotted a red coat across the lake on the slide by the dam, and sure enough, it was Berkley's Marlon Meade. I hollered across and found he had two Alpers already on jigs, releasing all other fish. The parking lot wasn't as crowded as usual, with only a dozen or so cars in it. It was 7 a.m..
The Weir Pond was more crowded than I have seen it in years, and there weren't any parking spaces available in the lot there. All the other popular holes along the stream were crowded.
A check at Intake Two later in the morning showed the usual big crowds of bank anglers, rafters and float tube aficionados, and while the fishing was good, there weren't many big fish in the mix. I talked to Shawn Sedorow of Anaheim Hills who had been fishing the Intake and the creek, and he said they caught lots of fish on bait and Thomas Buoyants, but "they were all small fish."
Walking along the shoreline I found Thomas Walters, Mike Walters, 11-year-old Joey Murray, Danny Murray and 13-year-old Zack, along with Brad Donahue, all of Chino, were up for their annual opening day trip and had limits by 9 a.m. using watermelon-colored jigs.
Other successful anglers at Intake Two included young Kelly and father Tim Mora of Hemet, who were doing well with Power Bait and Pautzke's salmon eggs, the Perez family of Pete, Judah and Levi of Moreno Valley who were cleaning up with Power Bait, and usual successful float tubers using most anything.
FUN AND FISH were everywhere around Intake Two on the opener, and these fish were caught using Power Bait by Pete, Judah and Levi Perez of Moreno Valley. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
I heard rumors of a 6½-pound Alpers rainbow, and finally tracked down the successful angler, Tommy Dufek of Carlsbad, along with his mentor, Steve Burgard of Visalia. His fish, caught out of "Ron's Lake" at the park, weighed 6½ pounds at the Creekside Store scale, and he caught it on a white jig. Also there with a 5-pound, 9-ounce Alpers was Austin Taylor of Keller, Texas, who used yellow Power Bait out of Ron's Lake for his fish. The lake is only available for those staying at the Creekside, with a wristband.
A 6½-POUND Alpers rainbow was the biggest trout caught in the Bishop area, landed by Tommy Dufek of Carlsbad on a white jig in "Ron's Lake" at the Creekside alongside South Fork Bishop Creek. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
Dufek's fish was the "big fish" winner for the Bishop "Fishmas" celebration of Rainbow Days, and he was awarded numerous prizes at 7 p.m. that evening in the Bishop Park during the Bishop Chamber and Lyons Club awards ceremony. It weighed 6½ pounds fresh, but was listed as 6 pounds, 4 ounces by the time it got to Bishop for a second weighing.
Sunday's fishing was almost as good as opening day, and with temperatures in the low 80s it was smiles all around!
THE TWO BIGGEST trout of the Bishop area were a 6½-pound Alpers caught by Tommy Dufek of Carlsbad on a white jig, and a 5-pound, 9-ounce Alpers caught by Austin Taylor of Keller, Texas, who used yellow Power Bait. Both fish were caught from "Ron's Lake" at the Creekside, alongside South Fork Bishop Creek. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
FAMILIES WERE gathered all around Intake Two, enjoying the warm weather and catching trout consistently, on the most part. Not many big fish were seen from the area this year. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
INTAKE TWO WAS a popular destination, as usual, for anglers fishing from shore, float tubes, rafts and most anything else that floated. There weren't many big fish reported from the Intake, although most of the fish were around a pound. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
THE 'INTAKE' AT Intake Two is a favored fishing area for the float tubers, and these anglers were finding it more fun for conversation and catching fish as a tied-together team. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR
THE LYONS CLUB of Bishop handles the weigh-in of fish for the free "Fishmas Day", also known as Rainbow Days, at Bishop Park, with all the fish out for display for the hundreds of attendees. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR