LEE VINING — High Sierra anglers who seek the trout grand slam will be excited to learn that the mild winter has allowed Saddlebag Lake to open nearly a month sooner than it has in the recent past.
Located at an elevation of 10,100 feet, the lake is often locked in snow and ice well into July and the backcountry trails leading to excellent brook trout and golden trout lakes are covered with snow into August.
Lake operator Richard Ernst said water levels in the lake are low, but the lake has been stocked and fishing has been excellent. Early season anglers have the best results at the Greenstone Creek Inlet, but trolling often yields some beautiful Alpers trout up to 8 pounds. The reason that Saddlebag Lake is so popular with anglers seeking a trout Grand Slam in a single day is the relatively easy access to area waters holding rainbow, brook, golden and brown trout.
In other areas of the Eastern Sierra, the reports sound like a broken record, but the tune is a good one. From Lone Pine to Bridgeport, most landings are reporting “lots of limits on 1- to 2-pound trout, with a few to 3 pounds showing up regularly.” But there are some areas still producing trophy fish.
Big fish this week was a 7-pound rainbow landed at Lower Twin Lake in Bridgeport. Bob Jefferson at Twin Lakes Resort said the unidentified angler was using a worm from shore on the jetty near the marina.
“We continue to see lots of limits of quality fish,” Jefferson said. The lake was stocked again last week.
Nearby at Upper Twin Lake, Tom Tingle said anglers are coming in with limits of mostly 1- to 2-pound fish, with the occasional 3-pound fish included. Nightcrawlers and garlic baits are working very well and trollers pulling Thomas Buoyant, Hot Shots of Tasmanian Devil Lures are getting good bites.
A group from the San Fernando Fishing Club has good success at Bridgeport Reservoir, with a 5-pound, 3-ounce rainbow caught with an inflated nightcrawler taking first place in the club contest.
Abel Ruvalcaba at Bridgeport Marina said lake waters have cleared and some bigger fish are starting to show up at Robinson Creek and Buckeye Creek and for anglers trolling to two colors at the dam.
Lakes in the June Loop continue to produce steady limits with a few bigger fish tossed in to keep anglers excited.
Dave Cunningham at June Lake Marina said he saw several 3-pound cutthroat trout and Larry Jones from Fountain Valley checked in with a 2-pound, 8-ounce cutt taken in the reeds. “Anything with garlic is the secret and the reeds are hot right now,” Cunningham said. Trolling is slow with bigger fish having gone deep.
John Logue at Ernie’s Tackle Shop said Gull Lake has been very active with one angler reporting a 17-fish morning. Rush creek flows are at a good fishing level and Logue said Panther Martin lures, nightcrawlers or Gulp Pinched Crawlers have been working well. Grant Lake has been a good place to catch brown trout to 2 pounds for anglers trolling the Narrows at three colors with green frog pattern Tasmanian Devil lures.
“The browns coming from Grant are sleek, super looking fish,” Logue said.
Silver Lake continues to be an excellent place to catch fish to 3 pounds from anglers working from shore or at the Rush Creek Inlet.
Lakes in the Mammoth Basin are wide open for bait and lure anglers and Jeff Franke at Rick’s Sportscenter said flyfishermen are anticipating an abundant damsel fly and callibaetis hatch almost anytime at Twin Lake.
“In general the lakes have been fishing extremely well, with lots of 1 to 2-pound fish filling stringers,” Franke said.
Conditions on the Upper Owens have started to improve, according to Kent Rianda at the Troutfitter in Mammoth Lakes. He said the water has cleared and advised anglers to go deep and heave. “Concentrate on fishing the deeper bend pools with a significant amount of weight with mainly attractor patterns like a worm or a Coachman.” Rianda said.
Crowley Lake put out some nice browns this past week with the biggest a 5-pound, 5-ounce beauty. Bonnie Fanti at Crowley Lake Fish Camp said both customer and fish numbers are up at the lake as fishing continues to be strong. The best locations for big brown are at Sandy Point, near the floating bathroom in McGee Bay, Leighton Spring and Green Banks.
BIG CROWLEY CATCH — This 4-pound, 6-ounce rainbow beauty was hooked by Ron Kosmala, a Crowley Lake local while he was trolling a Tasmanian Devil in 20 feet of water in McGee Bay. Browns continue to show up in good numbers at Crowley.
Bigger fish are also showing up at Convict Lake, with the top catch this week a 5-pound rainbow caught by Dan Barton from Ladera Ranch with a Trout Teaser at the Creek. Mihal Burcea from Glendale hauled in a 4-pound, 3-ounce rainbow with a nightcrawler on the South Shore and Sandi Kono nailed a 4-pound, 6-ounce bow with a cheese worm at the back end of the lake.
Rock Creek Lake got into the action with bigger fish this week, according to Jim King at Rock Creek Lake Resort. He checked Patrick Pegausch from Santa Ana with 3 and 6-pound rainbows taken with a Panther Martin tossed from shore at the rocky end of the lake.
“Lots of limits are also coming from the stream with nightcrawlers, red Thomas Buoyant and Panther Martin lures,” King said. Anglers tossing black ants in backcountry lakes are hammering the wild brookies.
South Lake in the Bishop Creek Basin has been the headline maker the past few weeks with the big Alpers trout being caught there. The action continues with an 8-pound beauty caught and released by Brett Powell who was enjoying a day off from his duties as a South Lake staffer. He was using a cricket-colored minijig.
Also notable was a hefty 6-pound, 7-ounce bow caught by Tim Carnahan of Sky Valley, trolling a CD7 Rapala near Roger's cove.
SOUTH LAKE HAWG — Tim Carnahan from Sky Valley is a regular at South Lake and you can see why with this 6-pound, 7-ounce Alpers rainbow that he nailed while trolling a #7 countdown Rapala. South lake continues to pump out some of the biggest Sierra trout so far this season.
The best action at Lake Sabrina has been at the Dingleberry, George and Little George inlets at the back end of the lake with nightcrawlers, jigs and Power Bait.
Rick Apted at the landing said trolling flashers and a nightcrawler or just a nightcrawler or a Thomas Buoyant is getting some limits with the fish down about three or fourcolors. Drifting crawlers or Power Bait by the rock piles or over the shoreline between the two natural lakes is a great way to spend the day and pick-up some fish.
Apted said there were some first time catchers at the lake this week, including Bryce Bayle, 10, from Dinuba with help from his grandfather and a friend. Kaeleigh Johnny, 8, from Sparks, Nevada, also caught her very first fish at Lake Sabrina.
CONVICT ROD BENDER — The short hike to the back of Convict Lake was worth the effort for Sandi Kono from Monterey Park who returned with this quality 4-pound, 6-ounce rainbow that she enticed with a Cheese Worm. Bigger fish are starting to chew at Convict Lake.
HIS FIRST CATCH — You never forget that first fish, and Bryce Bayle, 10, from Dinuba had a little help from his Grandfather and a friend to reel in this first fish at Lake Sabrina.