Setting The Stage For Trout Opener

Trolling at Crowley Lake. (MIKE STEVENS)
Trolling at Crowley Lake. (MIKE STEVENS)


OK, trout anglers: You’re big day is almost here at t-minus one day. Saturday kicks off the 2014 statewide trout opener at lakes around the state, with a big focus on the Eastern Sierras. Here is our story that ran in the April issue of California Sportsman zeroing in on the hot spots in the area around Bishop, Bridgeport and Mammoth, with a big assist from Kent Rianda of the Troutfitter in Mammoth Lake (760-924-3676;


Convict Lake opens for business on Saturday for the trout opener. (MIKE STEVENS)
Convict Lake opens for business on Saturday for the trout opener. (MIKE STEVENS)


By Chris Cocoles

MAMMOTH LAKES – By April 26, when the figurative shotgun start signals the California statewide trout season, Crowley Lake will be full of Eastern Sierra boat and shore anglers searching out its trout residents.

But Kent Rianda of The Troutfitter fly shop and guide service in Mammoth Lakes (, says anglers should take advantage of some less frequented spots around Crowley.

Spawning time is rarely ever predictable for the fish that head into Crowley Lake’s fishable tributaries like McGee Creek, Hilton Creek and Crooked Creek. The rest of the sources that flow into the lake, with the exception of the Owens River in the first section above the lake, are closed to all fly fishing from opening day on.

“In those tributaries you will find big fish that are moving up,” Rianda says of the McGee, Hilton and Crooked creeks. “It’s primarily a fly-fishing deal. But very few people do that. There are only a few people who know the secret.”

Convict Lake is also popular for Eastern Sierra visitors. It differs from Crowley in that it’s more of a traditional deep mountain lake and drops off to deeper water quickly from the shore. So more fishing from the bank can result in big trout hauls at Convict, while trollers and other boats seem to have the most productive success at Crowley. Boats can find some secluded spots on Convict as well.

“A really good spot to always on Convict is at that little shelf that exists right at the inlet from where the stream comes in,” Rianda says.

A similar option to Crowley Lake is Bridgeport Reservoir, roughly an hour north on Highway 395. Rianda calls Bridgeport “an instant replay to Crowley.”

“You can expect lots of hungry fish on opening day, depending on water temperature, which this year should be fairly high,” Rianda says. “The consequence of that is the fish should be actively feeding and growing. I would probably say the forecast for Crowley and Bridgeport Reservoir is to have a pretty damn good opener.”

The Mammoth Lakes Basin, which includes Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake George and Lake Mamie, is traditionally closed on opening day and opens on Memorial Day weekend. But as of press time, Rianda wasn’t sure if the Department of Fish and Wildlife would be involved in early trout planting.

“Most of those lakes are plant and take. But the lowest lake

Lower Twin Lake, the lowest of the basin lakes, should be the best of that group to go for the opener because it’s usually the most accessible, and the large brown trout there could make for an enticing opportunity, provided the season’s lack of heavy snowfall stays constant.

“There are some particularly large holdover brown trout that live in Lower Twin Lake,” Rianda says. “And they are extremely difficult to catch over the summer, but they get dumb over the winter. I guess you would consider if a feeding strike if they were chasing a streamer. But it’s also an aggression strike. They’re big, full of testosterone monsters, and if something comes across their nose, they’ll strike at it, anywhere from half their own length.”

Fly anglers in float tubes would probably have the best opportunity to take out one of these browns in Lower Twin Lake. The brown trout are much more likely to caught in the middle or far side of the lake by float tubers than shore anglers.

Certain lakes and streams in the past have been all but impossible to reach in late April due to heavy snowfalls. But the lack of snow during this drought period should make for some wild card options for those anglers who do some selective searching.

“Anything you can get to that hasn’t been fished all winter on opening day can be particularly good,” Rianda says.

“The fishing should be good in all the areas, primarily because of high local planting, and the fact that we’ve had a mild (winter) and the fish are already active. When the water temperature on the bottom on opening day is 40 degrees, those fish are lethargic.”

However, an expected increase could make a major difference, says Rianda, who recommends purchasing an underwater thermometer at his or other outdoor stores to really gauge what’s most important: how cold the lake’s bottoms are.

“The water temperature on the surface doesn’t mean anything,” he says. “This year I’m predicting 50- to 54-degree water, so the fish will be in general more active. And more active fish translates to just moving faster to go and get some food.”

Editor’s note: Contact the Troutfitter at (760) 934-2517, or, for all of your fly fishing needs. The Troutfitter also provides top-notch guide services.