Anticipation for a fishing season hasn’t been this big in a decade.
The trout season opener is tomorrow (Saturday), and to hear people talk about it, you’ll see so many boats on Crowley Lake that you could probably walk across the lake just by hopping from deck to deck.
“Crowley is poised to have one of the best openers in the past decade,” said Dave Neal, a local fishing guide who plies practically all the waters of the Eastside.
“It’s been ice free since mid-January, it’s a few degrees warmer and all the trout have been feeding for months.”
It’s not just rainbows, either.
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) firehosed Crowley with a torrent of brown trout last fall, as well as a fair number of cutthroat trout, and indicated that up to 10,000 anglers will start barging into the area in the first week of the season.
“Crowley Lake in the Eastern Sierra is expected to be one of the most popular Opening Day destinations for anglers from around the state,” a spokesman for the DFG said Wednesday in a press release.
“In past years, an estimated 10,000 anglers have turned out for the opener and approximately 50,000 trout are caught during the first week of the season.
“Typically, Crowley is planted with hundreds of thousands of small- and medium-sized trout, and because of excellent food sources in the 5,280-acre lake, these trout grow to catchable sizes and weigh at least three-quarters of a pound by the opener.
“About 10 percent of the trout caught at Crowley during opening weekend weigh over a pound and a half.
“These fish are from stocks planted in previous years or are wild fish produced in Crowley’s tributary waters.”
It’s not just Crowley that is expected to have big action on Opening Day.
Convict Lake, for example, also has been ice-free since January, as have many fisheries near Bridgeport.
Also expecting a big Opening Day are the lakes on the June Lake Loop.
“This year, things are going to get going right off the bat,” Neal predicted.
It’s not just Neal predicting a big season. Practically everyone is.
“This equates to a shotgun start,” said Tom Loe of Sierra Drifters in his fishing blog.
“You will see a very early turnover this season with water levels decreasing as the summer unfolds.
“This is in contrast to last year, when we observed the lakes starting low, then filling and remaining high throughout the entire summer.”
Loe said the bottom line is that the Eastern Sierra will have a fine season with more consistent fishing throughout the summer.
As for the freestone waterways, they’ll have to wait a little bit longer, but they’ll be ready sooner than usual with plenty of water left over from last year to keep the streams running well into the summer and possibly autumn.
Also figuring in this rose-colored mix is the weather forecast, with temperatures at Crowley expected to be in the 60s, with high clouds or sun overhead. The only thing that might get in the way is the wind.
Meanwhile, Mammoth Tourism Director John Urdi has instituted a program called the “50 Days of Fishmas,” which begins tonight (Friday) in the Village with a variety of activities and giveaways.
“Traditionally,” he said, “we’ll see a big spike on Opening Weekend, then it will be flat for a month or so. We’d like to have these people back earlier.
“We’d like to make sure that the Eastern Sierra gets back to the level where it used to be, when we had hundreds of thousands of people coming to fish and stay in the area.
“Last year’s fishing opener was tough,” he said. “It was 14 degrees and this year it looks like we’re going to be in the 60s and sunny.
“The reason we’re doing the Opening Weekend Fishmas Festival up in the Village is really to show people just a good time, even if they don’t catch their limit or a six-pound trout.
“They’ll still have a good time.”