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Eastern Sierra enters prime trout season

Special to Western Outdoor News
Published: Sep 21, 2017
JUNE LAKE — This is the season that real trout hunters eagerly anticipate.

Imagine having a lake almost to yourself, an active bite for 3- to 5-pound trout, or bigger, and a backdrop of brilliant fall color. It doesn’t get much better and this will be the scene as the Eastern Sierra slips into fall glory.

Last week was a hint of that as aspens and willows around the lakes in the June Loop start to take on hues of yellow, and anglers hauling in big fish have to yell really loud because there not many other anglers close enough to hear.


BIG VIRGINIA RAINBOW — Waters in Virginia Lakes Basin have been well stocked, and Joe Kent visiting from Minnesota found that out when he landed this 5-pound 3-ounce rainbow at Big Virginia Lake using a Thomas Buoyant.

One of those who was probably yelling really loud was Jim Schroeder from Torrance who hauled in an 8-pound rainbow at Gull Lake while offering a worm from a boat. Junior Calderon at Gull Lake Marina said crowds are light and the fishing has been excellent, with a steady stream of 3- to 6-pound fish coming in last week. Another angler checked in with a 6-pound, 12-ounce rainbow from Gull Lake.

Jeremy Ross at Ernie’s Tackle said the dark moon, cooler temperatures and lighter crowds have all contributed to a better bite. Ross said the weather has taken on a fall flavor and when he had a chance to fish June Lake, trolling at 9 colors was working to catch some nice cutthroat.

Water levels at Grant Lake continue to drop, and crowds have been light. This can be a top brown trout fishing hole once the fall spawn begins. Silver Lake was stocked a few weeks ago with a special load of 4,000 pounds of 3- to 5-pound hatchery trout and those beefy rainbows continue to bite well.

Anglers in the Mammoth Lakes Basin are encountering ice on colder mornings, but it doesn’t seem to have slowed the bite. Joey Maiz at Rick’s Sportscenter said traditional baits are working well, fished off the bottom of the lakes with 3-foot leaders.

“If you are not getting a bite, go a little longer on your leader,” he said.

Biggest fish of the week from the basin was a 6-pound rainbow taken at Twin Lakes by an angler only identified as Jimmy, who was fishing with Power Worms in waders.

“We are seeing lots of 3’s and 4’s,” Calderon said.

RAINBOW BY GEORGE — Nicole Rork from San Diego was tossing green PowerBait from shore at Lake George in Mammoth Lakes when this beautiful 3-pound, 8-ounce rainbow decided to bite last week.


Convict Lake has been fishing well all season, producing a steady bite of 3- to 4-pound fish. This week, an angler only identified as Ryan checked in with a 7-pound, 4-ounce rainbow taken from shore with a nightcrawler. The inlet continues to be a prime spot at Convict, but anglers are doing well just about everywhere.

Guide Kent Rianda reports that there are some clouds of algae drifting around at Crowley Lake, but it is not posing a problem for anglers who are finding a good bide in McGee Bay and Crooked Creek.

Just as things started to get going in shallow water, the fish moved back out into deeper water. Not all of them, but a good portion of them decided to up and leave and are now back in 20-plus feet of water,” Rianda said.

Don’t waste time with dry flies. Rianda suggests a Bead Head black Optimidge, small Copper Tiger, Red Baron or Albino and streamers such as Punk Perch Olive, Hare’s Ear or Damsels.

Crowley is now under fall no-bait regulations that limit anglers to taking two fish daily, 18 inches or larger with barbless, artificials only.

Mornings are getting chilly at the higher elevation like Rock Creek Lake, but it sure has not slowed the bite. Glen McElfresh at Rock Creek Lake Resort said all of the trophy fish stocked for Labor Day are now starting to bite. A fly and bubble combo with a streamer near the inlet is a good bet, and salmon eggs in Rock Creek has been killer the past week.

THUMBS UP CATCH — Art Boyamian from Reseda is all thumbs up at Lake Mary after landing this 6-pound, 3-ounce rainbow, using a small rainbow Roostertail from a boat close to the eastern shore near Pokonobe Marina.


Largest fish checked this week was a 4-pound, 9-ounce rainbow taken by Marty Johnson from Santee, who was offering a Marble Fly near the boat dock.

Fly fishing at the little marshy pond below Rock Creek Lake has also been excellent, McElfresh said. Wild brookies and larger browns can be taken here if you have waders to get out in the water.

The crisp weather at higher elevations seems to agree with the fish in the Bishop Creek Basin, where reports indicate an upswing in the bite. Rick Apted at Lake Sabrina said that could also be due to the stocking aggressive Desert Springs Hatchery rainbows from Oregon.

“That’s the BIG fish going in,” Apted said.

The inlets fished with nightcrawlers, PowerBait or jigs is a good bet at Sabrina, while trolling at four to five colors with leadcore and Needlefish or Thomas Buoyants is also working very well. Lots of water in the lake also means anglers can fish right off the dam, and Apted said that is the easiest and most accessible way to catch fish. Good numbers of fish to 3-pounds are coming in.

Late season anglers are still keeping an eye on South Lake where monster browns are lurking in deeper water. Hopefully they will start biting as fall weather kicks into full gear.

Intake II and North Lake are well stocked and good place for tube fishing. Flows on the South and Middle forks of Bishop Creek are at more normal levels now, and those areas have been well stocked.

Lee Vining Creek is a popular fall fishing destination because of accessible campgrounds, dense aspen groves that take on brilliant fall colors, and great fishing in the creek.

Just up the road, Ellery, Tioga and Saddlebag Lakes have been well stocked with larger rainbows and anglers are hauling in plenty of 3- to 5-pound fish. Be prepared for severe weather at these higher elevations.


TWIN LAKE TWINS — Orange PowerBait was all that Shannon Dunn from Pomona needed to bring in these two nice rainbows at Lower Twin Lake in Bridgeport. The larger one weighed in at 3 pounds, 4 ounces.

Mornings have been chilly at Virginia Lakes, and anglers waiting until the sun hits the lakes have been doing better.

Carolyn Webb at Virginia Lakes Resort 600 pounds of trout were stocked last week and similar amounts will be planted every other week through the season.

Biggest fish of the week was a 5-pound, 3-ounce rainbow taken by Joe Kent visiting from Minnesota. He was tossing a Thomas Buoyant at Big Virginia Lake. The cold at higher elevation wild lakes has slowed the bite a bit, but Webb said she had good success offering black ants.

Bridgeport Reservoir was another lake that received the special stocking of 4,000 pounds of larger rainbows before Labor Day.

Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport said this has kept the red-hot bite alive and well, with the best action for anglers in boats.

Buckeye Bay continues to be the epicenter, but it looks like cooler temperatures are allowing fish to spread out, and anglers are reporting success near Paradise Shores and near the dam. Big browns are still no-shows at the Twin Lakes, but lots of nice rainbows to 6 pounds have been reported in the past week. Trolling has been a good tactic with Thomas Buoyant, Kastmaster and Rapalas, while bait anglers are doing well with Pinched Crawlers, Mice Tails and PowerBait.

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