Saturday is the statewide general trout opener. Our April issue commerates “Fishmas Day” and we’ll count down with a story every day this week leading into Saturday’s opening day.
Today: Opener opportunities abound in Mono County
By Chris Cocoles
The last Saturday in April is marked on so many anglers’ calendars year after year. The statewide trout opener is an unofficial holiday – fishing fanatics don’t call it Fishmas for nothing – in which rainbows, browns and brookies are as revered as Thanksgiving turkeys, Easter eggs and Halloween candy.
“I think the locals are almost more excited than our visitors are for opening day. Fishing the opener is our chance to get back out to all our favorite local fishing spots,” says Jeff Simpson, a local angler and economic development manager for Mono County. “But more than that, it symbolizes the end of winter. Opening day is really a promise that summer is just around the corner!”
Now that April has arrived and the countdown will soon shift from weeks to days until the opener, it’s time to start looking ahead to expectations. A late-March storm dumped a significant amount of snow in the Sierra, which will surely have an impact as the season gets closer.
The March surge of wet weather came after a mostly dry winter. Social media began using the hashtag #MammothMarch from the snowfall that accumulated starting at the beginning of last month.
“We had 87 inches on Mammoth Mountain as of March 20.This great, late snow will certainly help the snowpack and keep our lakes and rivers full,” Simpson says. “You won’t see the c.f.s. and runoff that we experienced last year but we still have so much water left from last winter that our lakes and reservoirs will be full well into late fall. The drier winter overall to date also means that we will have early access to some of the higher-elevation lakes like Virginia Lakes, Tioga Lake, Ellery Lake, Saddlebag Lake and Rock Creek Lake.”
Overall Simpson is anticipating a good spring and summer in the Eastern Sierra.
“We are very excited for the 2018 fishing season. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced they will move back to stocking diploid trout in all waters south of Conway Summit, which is terrific news for our fisheries,” he says. “Our partnership with (Oregon’s Desert Springs Trout Farm) is now in its fourth year and we will be continuing to stock the 6- to 9-pound rainbows that have been so successful over the last few years.”
BATTLING THE CROWDS
Weather is always a factor for the trout opener, but crowds are usually large regardless. So combat fishing is usually the name of the game at some of the more popular destinations like Convict and Crowley Lakes, the June Lake Loop and several creeks and rivers.
“The best advice is to get on the water early or come late and think about docking your boat with the local marina operator. This will allow you to skip the launching line and get you fishing faster during those early-morning hours,” Simpson says. “Other places like the West Walker River, Lundy Lake, Lee Vining Canyon and Robinson Creek offer excellent fishing and more space so you don’t feel like you are shoulder-to-shoulder with other anglers.
From opening day through the summer and into the fall, the Eastern Sierra features fishing derbies and contests, including several during the April 28-29 opening weekend alone. So which one(s) should trout anglers enter if heading over?
“This could be the hardest decision for anyone coming up for opening weekend,” says Simpson, who says some of the best early events include the Fred J. Hall Opening Day Big Fish Contest at Crowley Lake; the Monster Fish Contest at the June Lake Loop; Annett’s Mono Village Fishing Derby at Upper Twin Lakes; the Convict Lake Cash Derby; the Bridgeport Lake Locals Only contest; the Tom’s Place Fishmas Day derby; and the Gull Lake Fish of the Month Derby.