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April 24 Eastern Sierra Trout Opener

By CA Fish and Game
Opening Day Fish Rising
(click image for detail)

Anglers Gear for Strong April 24 Eastern Sierra Trout Opener.

With springtime temperatures taking over the Eastern Sierra, many
anglers are preparing for what is expected to be another great trout
opener. Anglers across California are eagerly anticipating the general
trout opener in the Eastern Sierra, which opens one hour before sunrise
on Saturday, April 24 in all waters in Inyo and Mono counties open to
fishing.

Most of these waters have been closed to fishing for six months. Nearly
every water in the Eastern Sierra holds rainbow trout, with some
maintaining a population of cutthroat, golden, brook and brown trout.
There are hundreds of thousands of trout in the region available to
anglers looking to toss bait and spinners, troll or fly fish.

"We are anticipating another good opener," says Curtis Milliron, a
fisheries biologist for the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) in Bishop.
"Many of our lakes have been ice-free for some time now so the trout
have had time to feed. We may see larger than normal fish in some of our waters."

The DFG has already begun planting lakes and streams up and down
Highway 395 and plans on planting every accessible water prior to the
opener with half-pound rainbow trout. Some waters will receive bonus
brood stock trout as well as other fish from private vendors.

Because of icy conditions, the following waters will not be planted
prior to the opener: in the Bishop Creek Drainage, South Lake, Lake
Sabrina and North Lake; in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Twin Lakes, Lake
Mamie, Lake Mary and Lake George; in the San Joaquin River Drainage,
Sotcher and Starkweather lakes; in the Lee Vining Creek Drainage,
Ellery, Tioga and Saddlebag lakes. Trumbull Lake and the Virginia Lakes
are also still frozen and aren't likely to have open water by the
opener. 

Each year, Crowley Lake sees more anglers on opening day than anywhere else in the Eastern Sierra. Crowley's concessionaire estimates that, on average, over the last decade 7,500-8,000 anglers fish the lake on the opener. The DFG estimates as many as 50,000 fish are caught at Crowley on opening weekend. Catch rates vary widely depending on weather conditions.

Crowley is the DFG's most prized trout water in the Eastern Sierra.
Every August, the reservoir is planted with more than a half-million
trout. Because of excellent food sources in the 5,280-acre lake, the
trout grow to catchable sizes by opening weekend. After Aug. 1 last
year, Crowley was planted with more than 180,000 Eagle Lake trout
subcatchables, 150,400 Coleman strain advanced subcatchables, 94,000 catchable Colemans strain rainbows, 10,000 Hot Creek strain rainbows, 67,000 Kamloop strain 3-to-the-pound rainbows, 32,000 cutthroat subcatchables and 50,000 brown trout fingerlings.

"We stocked an extra 94,000 Coleman rainbow trout in the lake last
year," Milliron said. "They are especially large compared to the usual
10-to-the-pound fish stocked in Crowley. In 2003, those 94,000 Coleman rainbow trout averaged 3.1 to the pound. Additionally, the 150,400 subcatchables were also larger than normal. I think these Colemans are going to be much appreciated by anglers fishing Crowley on opening day. They went in large and they've had plenty of time to feed."

Coleman strain trout tend to be found in open water rather that near
shore. It's expected that most Colemans taken on opening weekend will be caught by trollers and bait fishermen casting from float tubes and
boats.

"The Crowley trout fishery is largely supported by the stocks that are
put in eight months previous to the opener. The fast growth that trout
achieve at Crowley Lake allows them to grow from a long term average
one-tenth of a pound when they are stocked in August to at least
three-quarters of a pound by the opener. This year, they'll probably be
larger than three-quarters of a pound," said Milliron. "The fish that
went in last year were larger and they've had more than one month of
open water this year to grow. Those fish might be a pound by the opener.

The carry over fish that were stocked two years ago should be at a
pound-and-a-half or more each. More than half of the fish that are
carryover size are Eagle Lake strain fish. We've had some fish that have
carried over several seasons. We've seen those over 5 pounds."

The Eastern Sierra boasts dozens of drive-to waters where anglers can
anticipate catching rainbow trout. The DFG plants dozens of rivers,
streams, ponds and lakes from Lone Pine to Topaz Lake. Heavily stocked hotspots this year include Intake II, Lone Pine Creek, Convict Lake, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, Lundy Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir and Twin Lakes Bridgeport.

In spite of budget cuts the DFG expects to plant all waters that are
accessible prior to the opener. "The roadside waters catchable trout
program is fully intact," Milliron said. "Fish and Game will still do a
great job planting rainbows even under the state's budgetary crisis. At
least for this season we will be able to maintain most of the stocking
program."

Fish and Game will be stocking rainbow trout prior to the opener.
Nonetheless, wild brown trout will also be available.

"We are not planning on stocking brown trout in the Eastern Sierra this
year because of the budget cuts," Milliron said. "This may be the last
year for a while for us to stock cutthroat trout too. Even though the
cutthroat have been a nice addition to Crowley and other waters in the
June Lake Loop the cutthroat we have on hand now will be the last
cutthroat that will be stocked in the Eastern Sierra until budget
conditions improve."

On the other hand, cutthroat will be available in Crowley, June, Silver
and Grant lakes throughout this season and into the following years as
previous subcatchable planted cutthroat grow to catchable size and enter the fishery.

"Aside from the losses of brown trout and this being the last year for
cutthroats to be stocked, the DFG is planning to continue stocking
rainbow trout in all historical locations this year," Milliron said. 

Due to cold overnight temperatures and minimal runoff anglers can
expect streams to be fishable as peak runoff is yet to take place. In
some years, heavy snow pack and warm weather can cause streams and rivers to swell and become difficult to fish.

While some waters will be iced over during the first few weeks of the
trout season, the DFG, which does not recommend ice fishing, urges
anglers to be extremely cautious when on or around ice. Before venturing out on the ice, check with the local government offices for updated conditions.

The DFG is asking anglers for their help when cleaning fish at Crowley
Lake and in the upper and lower Owens River Drainage. The DFG has
discovered the New Zealand Mud Snail in the Owens River Drainage and is trying to keep the snail from spreading into other waters.

"We want to avoid spreading New Zealand Mud Snails to other waters and anglers are advised to clean and dispose of their fish guts in trash
cans, rather than throw them back into the water, and to properly clean
wading gear before moving to new waters," added Milliron.

A reminder that all persons age 16 and older must possess a valid
California fishing license to fish within the state's borders. For 2004,
a standard freshwater fishing license costs $32.80 and can be purchased at regional DFG offices or authorized dealers. Anglers must wear their license visibly above the waist.

For weekly updates on fish planting throughout the state, visit the
DFG's website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/fishplant/index.htmlrt trout
achieve at Cro or call:

Sacramento Valley - Central Sierra Region (916) 351-0832
South Coast, and Eastern Sierra and Inland Deserts Region (562)
590-5020

While most lakes, rivers and streams have a limit of five trout per day
and 10 in possession, there are many exceptions to the general rules and regulations regarding season opening and closing dates, bag limits,
minimum and maximum size limits and gear restrictions. For a specific
body of water consult the DFG's free 2004 California Freshwater Sport
Fishing Regulation booklet, found online at
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/fg_comm/fishregs.html

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