Crowley browns were numerous, but the biggest fish of the opener was an 8½-pound rainbow at Lower Twin Lake, followed by a 6 ½ pound Alpers at Bishop Creek
CONVICT LAKE was a great place to fish from shore as father-in-law/son-in-law Tony and Dave of Whittier scored limits mid-day at the lake. WON PHOTOS BY PAT McDONELL
CROWLEY LAKE — Perfect weather, quick limits, a brisk morning wind that turned to glassy water conditions and summer-like weather greeted opening day Sierra Nevada anglers Saturday, and again on Sunday.
The May 4 issue of WON has extensive coverage, plus a full whoppers list of reported fish opening day, plus photos and derby results from Bishop, Crowley and June Loop. And the reports will continue the rest of the season until it closes Nov. 15.
This reporter was centered at Crowley, Convict and mammoth lakes, and fished Crowley and Convict opening day. At Crowley Lake, shore fishing was a tough row to hoe, but trollers got into a solid bite on big rainbows, cutts and best of all, quality browns in the 3 to 4-pound class.
“I had to work ’em this year more than I thought I would, said Sam Harper who was hosting his family at Crowley and brought his boat up from Pasadena. “But the fish are better quality. Nice big fish. And the weather? Can you beat this for opening day? Last year I thought I was going have frostbite.”
Like many other areas opening weekend, the heat was on, but only for the weather and smaller fish, as the bigger fish didn’t show, at least not at the scales. A crowd of visiting anglers, deemed “moderate” by most veteran observers despite the expected good fishing and weather after a mild winter, had easy 5-day limits but only a few big fish were recorded Saturday, topped by and 8-10½ rainbow at Lower Twin and a 6½-pound Alpers trout from Bishop Creek, and a 5-9 brown from Lower Twin, which had two of the top three reported opening day fish between Bishop and Bridgeport. After that, top catches were a few 5 pounders from Gull and Bishop, a slew of 4 pounders. Crowley was the king of the 4-pound brown with five of them.
Crowley Lake often defines the Sierra trout opener, like it or not. It did not disappoint. Crowds at the opener were considered slightly larger than last year, despite high fuel prices. While massive crowds at the opener seen 10 years ago may be in the past, many businesses catering to anglers, such as guides and hotel owners and lodge owners, said bookings were up for the season. Way up, which is a very good sign for the attractiveness of a nearby vacation area just a gas tank away from SoCal and Norcal; metro areas.
But back to the fishing. Without question, Crowley was a great spot for a shot at 3 and 4-pound browns and stringers of cutts, and ’bows put in as fingerlings in the fall. A bonus 40,000-fish plant just before the opener helped, too.
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 planting additional cutts and brown, in small sizes, in the lake just prior to the opener. The DFG put 20,000 extra small browns and cutts in the lake a few weeks before the opener.
“It gets them fired up,” Flamson said of the infusion of small fish. He added the brown trout fishery is getting better and better, and guides and knowledgeable anglers can target them at will on the deep troll. “We catch ’em all the time and release them, In my opinion, the DFG is doing a great job planting the lakes. That’s what I think.”
There were five brown trout in the 4-pound class caught at Crowley opening day. The traditional opener with RVs, blaring music from some mixed up souls and even a trolling standup paddler -- is never complete without some good old-fashioned competition. For Crowley, it is the Fred Hall Memorial Crowley Lake Derby with first and second place prizes for adults and youths. It was a tight race to the finish at the Crowley Lake Camp store by the 4 p.m. weigh-in deadline.
Joe Gechter of Santa Barbara was in a boat with friends, Nathan Jorden and Lynn Richardson. Gechter used a Rapala at the north end of the lake at 9:30 to catch a 4-pound, 14½-ounce Alpers trout, edging out Adult Trophy Division runner up Richard Lopez of San Gabriel. He was fishing Greenbanks with a nightcrawler for a 4-11½-pound brown trout. Bart Hall and his wife Ginny were on hand with Crowley Lake Camp office manager Abbie Grooms to dole out the $500 check, plus Getcher won an all-day sun cruiser pontoon boat rental, and a complimentary fish mount from Davidson Taxidermy. Second place won Lopez a variety of tackle from Fred Hall & Associates. His angling credibility didn’t need any help. “I’ve been coming up here to the opener for the past 35 years,” said Lopez.
BART HALL CONGRATULATES the winner of the Fred Hall Memorial Trophy Contest. Joe Gechter of Santa Barbara who used a Rapala at the north end of the lake at 9:30 to catch a 4-pound, 14½-ounce Alpers trout, (second photo) edging out Richard Lopez of San Gabriel who had a slightly small fish, a brown trout. Bottom photo is Abbie Grooms of Crowley Lake Fish Camp who conducted the event along with Joe Gechter and Bart Hall.
In the Kid’s Trophy Division, 17 and under, two local youngsters who live a few long casts away from Crowley dueled on the same boat and area for first and second with two nearly identical brown trout from the same lake hotspot. The two boys, Quentin Le Francois, 7, and Carson Thompson, 11, were fishing with a group of nine family members and friends on a boat trolling in Crooked Creek. Quentin scored his 4-pound, 9½-ounce brown on a Needlefish, just beating out Carson, who also hooked a big brown on a Needlefish, a 4-pound, 5½-ounce brown. Quintin won $200, and an all-day boat rental. Carson’s second place finish won him a wad of tackle from Bart and Ginny Hall.
CROWLEY DERBY winners Quentin Le Francois, 7, and Carson Thompson, 11, were fishing with a group of nine family members and friends on a boat trolling in Crooked Creek. Quentin scored his Kids Trophy Division winning 4-pound, 9½-ounce brown on a Needlefish, just beating out Carson, who also hooked a big brown on a Needlefish, a 4-pound, 5½-ounce brown.
Crowley Lake turned out its typical mass of stringers, most from trollers, and a parade of nice fish were hauled up and weighed in at the Camp store. After the two top fish by Getcher and Lopez, the next biggest fish at the lake were taken by Adolph Faber who caught a 4-11 brown from the shore at Crooked Creek, and Melanie Krueger of Livermore who landed a 4-9 while trolling in the middle of the lake off Sandy Point with her mother and father, Mary Ann and Terry Ames of Colville.
Two nice rainbows from Alligator Point were next in line on the hit list. Brad Boulware was fishing Alligator Point with an Owner Mira Shad lure for a 4-pound, 2½ pounder, and Mando Delatorre took a 4-2 rainbow at Alligator Point on hatchery pellets imbedded in garlic Power Bait, which makes sense when you think about it.
At Convict Lake, the word from nearly every angler who came early was “easy limits” by 6:30 a.m. The were few big fish at Convict recorded at the resort store. The biggest fish on the list by Saturday afternoon was a 3½ pounder. The lake shore saw plenty of room for two reasons. People limited out quick and new groups came in to wet a line for more fish, and the lake was fairly uncrowded due to the creekside Convict campgrounds being closed. The national forest service should have the new bathrooms installed by Memorial Day. “Should” is the key word there.
“There’s a 95 percent chance they will be completed by then,” said Convict Lake store manager Norm Blackwell. The lake will continue its Roundup at the Lake fishing derby through June 10 with $6,000 in resort prizes. Cost is $15 a person, and if you weigh in a fish of 14 inches or larger you are in the drawing for prizes. Ask about it and other upcoming events and derby at the Convict Lake Resort and store.
At Mammoth Lakes, Ronnie Kovach/Mammoth Chamber of Commerce’s Fishmas Festival at the Village on Friday and Saturday afternoons drew moderate crowds for the festivities that included seminars, hourly drawings for prizes, music and Mammoth Brewing beer tasting. It was the first year of the event, said Rich Flamson at Rick’s Sporting Goods. “It was the first year, and it will grow if they keep it going.”
The chamber’s “50 Days of Fishmas” promotion runs through June 18 and you can get details at www.easternsierrafishing.org. One big facet of the promotion is the selling of raffle drawing tickets to a $13,000 Klamath fishing boat/engine/trailer with ticket proceeds directly going to purchase big fish for the Mono County waters.
Of course, as in all openers, Mammoth was a great spot to dine, recline and dash to lakes outside the area as basin lakes icefishing was ill-advised due to thin ice. While Twin Lake had some open area, as did Lake Mary, and the road to the lake (walking in only) was plowed, few anglers fished the area. Of course, look for those Basin lakes to be fully open and accessible far earlier than normal, though, with such a mild winter. Also, WON will update anglers concerning the opening of Red’s Meadow. High winds over the winter downed hundreds of huge trees and there is extensive work to be completed to public areas to get it ready for the summer and fall seasons.
MELANIE KRUEGER OF Livermore who landed a 4-9 while trolling in the middle of the lake off Sandy Point with her mother and father, Mary Ann and Terry Ames of Colville. They caught several nice fish that day.
THESE CONVICT LAKE anglers scored limits and solid stringers. While fishing was solid, no fish over 3½ pounds was recorded at the resort store, the lake’s official weigh site. There was a report of a 5 pounder, though, caught by a local teenager, but not confirmed at deadline. The lake and creek waters were not as crowded as it usually is opening day because the campgrounds at the creek were closed for National Forest work on replacing the bathrooms. The facility should be open for Memorial Day.