Opener of the California fishing season was different this year

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Well, the opening day of the 2000 California fishing season arrived on April 29 and it was a different type of experience this year for yours truly.

For more years than I can count, that California opener has always meant just one thing:

Hiking into Roosevelt-Lane Lakes to fish from my little inflatable raft for large cutthroat and Eastern brook trout.

Those two high-mountain lakes are in the Hoover Wilderness Area, about 75 miles south of Carson City.

To reach those two lakes, you drive south from Carson City on U.S. 395 for 66 miles to its junction with California S.R. 108 (the Sonora Pass Highway). Then turn onto the Sonora Pass Highway and drive west for about six miles to the U.S. Forest Service Leavitt Meadows Campground. From the campground, backpacker parking area, you will need to take about a three-mile hike to reach those two, small, interconnected lakes. Walk across the footbridge on the West Walker River, go about 400 yards and take the right-hand fork of the trail. The hiking trail is well maintained and just follow it to the first of the two lakes (Lane Lake). Roosevelt Lake is about 100 yards further.

Through those many years, I have either hiked in just for the day, backpacked in for the entire weekend or gone in on several occasions on a packhorse trip.

The scenery, fishing, companionship, food and drinks have always been superb and that opener has always been one of my yearly, fishing highlights.

However, this year was a different story.

Late last year while on a packhorse trip into another part of the Hoover Wilderness Area, my little raft developed a bad leak at the base of one of its air stems.

The leaky area was unrepairable, so I was forced to buy another raft.

Being my usual lazy self, I never got around to checking that new raft until several days before the planned hike into Roosevelt-Lane.

I blew up the raft to check its airworthiness. That was when I discovered to my horror that it also had a bad leak and would not hold air.

That quickly and effectively ruled out fishing at Roosevelt-Lane Lakes. Without a raft or a float tube, your chances for catching fish at those lakes drops dramatically. I did not feel like taking a six mile round-trip hike to get skunked from shore.

So, without a raft, my options for going somewhere for the California opener were very limited. I had no desire to join the huge hordes of other fishermen who would be swarming around places like Crowley Lake, Convict Lake, the Mammoth Lakes area, the June Lake Loop, the Virginia Lakes area, Lundy Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir, the Twin Lakes area and the West and East Walker Rivers.

Most of California's high country was still snowbound and ice-covered above 8,500 feet, and without a raft, there were no locations that immediately jumped out and caught my attention.

Then, out of the blue, I got a fascinating invitation.

Bob Tompkins of the Walker Lake Guide Services in Hawthorne called to ask if I and Bob "Slick" McCulloch of Carson City would be interested in being part of video-taping an outdoor show about trout fishing at Walker Lake.

Tompkins wanted McCulloch to bring his boat as it would greatly increase the chance of getting good action shots, with two boats fishing.

The taping was to be done by The Outdoors Adventures Show of Las Vegas. That television show is produced by Howard Lee of Caples Productions and stars Peter Liakopoulos.

McCulloch and I agreed to participate and drove out to Walker Lake early that Saturday morning. We arrived at about 7 a.m., only to be confronted by a stiff wind and an entire lake covered with white caps.

When the others arrived a few minutes later, we all quickly agreed that it would be wise to wait and see if the wind would die down, rather than venturing out onto the water.

We waited and waited.

Finally about 10:30, the wind began to die down and the white caps got smaller.

We quickly launched our two boats and started to troll in "The Cliffs" area.

We were staying in constant touch with one another via our CB radios and neither boat was reporting any activity.

Within minutes, the wind completely died down, the lake became almost mirror smooth, the sun was brightly shining and the temperature was getting hotter and hotter.

It was turning out to be a gorgeous day at Walker Lake.

However, fishing was another story.

It was S-L-O-W!

We could see large numbers of trout on our electronic fish locators, but they were not interested in anything that we offered them.

I trolled with two poles and tried all kinds of lures such fire-tiger, black/gold, black/silver, rainbow Rapalas; red/white, Chartreuse/black dot, yellow/black dot, rainbow orange/bronze striped, Tor-P-Dos; silver flasher blades with Nitro Worms; silver, gold F-7 Flatfish.

McCulloch was having the same results, as were all of the fishermen on Tompkins' boat.

None of us were experiencing any action.

About 1 p.m., McCulloch finally had a hit on a silver, F-7 Flatfish lure.

We quickly radioed the other boat. Then when they were along side of us and filming, he brought in a nice 5-pound cutthroat trout.

Once his fish was in our boat, they returned to fishing another area of the lake.

Shortly afterwards, I had a strike on a white/red dot Tor-P-Do lure. It was a dink (a small 13-14 inch cutthroat) which l released unharmed without calling the other boat.

And that was it. That was the total action for us for the entire day.

The other boat got completely skunked.

Two fish on two hits.

We finally threw in the sponge at 3 p.m. and headed back to the dock to return to Carson City.

So, the moral of this story is that next year you can be sure that my little raft will be ready to be carried into Roosevelt-Lane Lakes.

Trolling at Walker Lake on the opening day of the California fishing season is not as much fun.

- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you how many trout will be planted this year in Roosevelt-Lane Lakes by the California Dept. of Fish and Game.

If he says, "Those two lakes will receive aerial plantings of about 2,000 Eastern brook and 1,000 cutthroat trout fingerlings," he might have read the same report that I did.


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