“I haven’t seen that many boats on the water since I was a kid”
If anything could illustrate the craziness and size of last week’s Fishing Opener, it might be how long it took June Lake Marina and Crowley Lake Fish Camp owner John Frederickson to find his mobile phone, lost in the chaos.
“One of my customers found it at the bottom of a pontoon boat this week,” he said Wednesday. “It was a record for attendance, especially out at Crowley Lake. It was just a big, big weekend. It was everything anyone could ask for.”
The uncharacteristically warm weather—high temperature records were broken in the Eastern Sierra on Sunday, May 28—unusually light winds and unheard of easy access to almost every lake under 10,000 feet added to an unbeatable combination, according to Frederickson.
Add some truly big lunkers—four 10-pound-plus Brown trout at Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, with a Brownie from Crowley Lake at about 7 pounds 10 ounces in pursuit and plenty of four and five pounders across the board—all adding up to some happy anglers—and just as many happy local businesses.
Although the official numbers regarding the number of visitors and the boost to the local economy are not in yet, tourism officials and local business owners echoed Frederickson’s words over and over again.
“The weather could not have been better for the opening weekend of fishing season here in the Eastern Sierra,” said John Urdi, the tourism chief for the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
“Weather in the low 70s and gorgeous sunshine made it one of the best openers in recent memory. Town occupancy was up four percent compared to the same opening weekend last year and it was the first time anyone can remember having the Lakes Basin road open.
“Twin Lakes in Mammoth Lakes was completely ice free and even parts of Lake Mary were fishable from the Lake Mary Marina side.
“Another big bonus was the additional stocking that we were able to do based on the fishing boat raffle as well as a last minute bonus from the Mono County Board of Supervisors approving nearly $20,000 additional stocking in a meeting just two weeks ago,” he said.
It was all welcome news to anglers and locals alike.
According to Frederickson, whose decades-long tenure as a fishing-based business owner give him plenty of perspective, the recession took a huge toll on the industry.
This past weekend, that trend began to reverse.
“We saw the bottom of the income levels, those with the least amount of expendable cash, drop out almost completely when the recession hit,” he said.
“They started to trickle back this past weekend, I saw people out there I haven’t seen in years. It was great.”
He said activity on Crowley Lake is a good test for the fishing business, as it attracts all income levels.
“That’s what made the difference, I think,” he said.
Here’s what some other locals had to say about Fishing Opener:
“Convict Lake experienced a wonderful Opener this year that was both typical and atypical. The atypical part was the fantastic weather. I don’t believe I’ve seen such a gorgeous, warm Opener since 1982. The typical part was really the excellent fishing. At 4 a.m. the fishermen started to march like the Redcoats out to their favorite spots at the lake. By 7:30 a.m., groups of them were heading back, one by one, to their cabins or the campground or the store, and most had already caught their full limits. Several five-pounders were snagged over the weekend, quite a few four-pounders, and numerous three-pounders—and there were smiles on everyone’s faces.—Brian Balarsky, Convict Lake Resort owner
“I was fishing on Bridgeport Reservoir opening day, and haven’t seen that many boats on the water since I was a kid.”—Jeff Simpson, Mono County Tourism Economic Assistant
“Opening Weekend was spectacular. Some of the best fishing at an Opener I have seen in years. Obviously the weather was spectacular, but the fishing and the number of people that were on Silver Lake was a sight. We had over 25 fish over two pounds and the two largest fish out of our lake were 5.6 pounds, both by the same gentleman, Jacob Aguayo. To be honest, I think that the buzz was the extra fish that went into the lake due to the boat raffle stocking. Everyone seemed excited and saw direct results. We couldn’t be happier with how things went.”—Andrew Jones, Silver Lake Resort
“We were up! I’d say we had 600 boats on the lake for opening day. The weather was good and the fishing was good. I do think more locals came out because it was so nice. I noticed good bumps in reservations with the e-mail blasts I started, but I think we can say it was weather and a better economy.” —Abbie Grooms , Crowley Lake Fish Camp