By Don Quilici
Psst! Wanna take an educated guess at what special date is sneaking up, just around the corner?
I'll give you a giant hint: That special date is April 24. Put a huge, red circle around that day on your calendar.
Now, that you had done so, would you like to take a guess at why that date is special in the outdoor world?
Well, if you are a fisherman or a recent arrival to this general area of the West, April 24 is the last Saturday of April.
And, more importantly, the last Saturday in April is the Opening Day of the California fishing season. Yahoo!
And, like many other tens of thousands of anglers, "Little Donnie Q" will once again be able to fish at a large number of California streams, creeks, rivers, ponds, reservoirs and lakes that have been closed since last Fall.
Once that 2004 California fishing seasons opens on April 24, it will run until Nov. 15, and then close.
An interesting change, this year, is that Inyo County will now close on Nov. 15, with the rest of the state, rather than the traditional Oct. 31 date it has had for countless years.
Hmmm, they must be following the lead of Mono County, who made the switch last year, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 15.
Those two counties were the only ones that had a closing date different than the rest of the state, and they have now fallen into line with all of the other counties.
Now, with that said, here's some selected information that might prove useful for that California Opener:
CREEKS AND RIVERS:
The West Carson River, East Carson River, West Walker River, East Walker River, Little Walker River, Truckee River, Buckeye Creek, Green Creek, Mammoth Creek, Red Creek, Robinson Creek, Rush Creek, Virginia Creek, are opening, to name just a few moving waters.
Note: At this time of the year, you can usually expect high, cold and fast waters in most of those creeks and rivers from melting snowpacks.
Your best bet:
Is usually the East Walker River, downstream from Bridgeport Reservoir to the California/Nevada stateline. Be advised that area has special fishing restrictions: Minimum size of 18 inches, only artificial flies and lures with barbless hooks.
This section has large, trophy-sized rainbow and German brown trout.
The East Walker River has a controlled flow of water from Bridgeport Reservoir and therefore is less subject to the impact of the melting snow in the high country.
PONDS, LAKES AND RESERVOIRS:
Bridgeport Reservoir, Convict Lake, Crowley Lake, Dynamo Pond, the June Lake Loop (Grant, Gull, June and Silver Lakes), Lundy Lake, the Mammoth Lakes (George, Mamie, Mary and Twin), North Lake, Sabrina Lake, South Lake, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes and the Virginia Lakes area. All of these waters can be reached by vehicle, weather permitting.
Your best bet:
Will be Upper and/or Lower Twin Lakes for large German brown trout or rainbow trout.
Those two lakes are located about 15 miles west of Bridgeport.
They are famous for their large German browns, including the current California state record brown that weighed more than 25 pounds!
They are also well-known for huge crowds on the opening weekend.
Several years ago, Steve Marti of the Twin Lake Resort at Lower Twin Lake estimated there were 2,000 fishermen at Twin Lakes on the opening weekend.
LARGE CROWDS OF PEOPLE:
If the weather is reasonably nice, expect to encounter huge crowds of anglers, all along the entire length of the Eastern Sierra Front.
Those hordes of people will be heavily concentrated at popular fishing destinations such as Crowley Lake, Convict Lake, the June Lake Loop, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, Bridgeport Reservoir, the West Walker River, the East Walker River, Robinson Creek and Buckeye Creek.
Note: Many of those waters will have also been heavily planted by California Fish and Game and Alper's Hatchery with thousands of rainbow trout, ranging from typical planter size to the huge Alper's Trophy Rainbow Trout.
The opening of the 2004 trout fishing season also means that once the winter snowpack melts and the surface ice melts, hikers can fish at countless walk-in lakes, such as Burro, East, Fremont, Gilman, Upper and Lower Hoover, Kirman (Carmen), Lane, Nutter, Upper, Lower and Middle Par Value, Poore, Roosevelt, Secret, Summit and West.
At this time of the year, backcountry anglers should expect to encounter deep snow and ice-covered lakes anywhere above an elevation of about 8,500-9,000 feet. If you're one of those anglers, go prepared with cross country skis, snowshoes or a snowmobile (where legal). You'll need them!
And if you do venture into the backcountry, remember these safety tips:
1. Tell someone exactly where you will be hiking and fishing, and your "fail-safe" time for returning home.
That way, in the event something unforeseen should happen, searchers will have a fighting chance to find you.
2. Always, always, always carry survival gear and a first-aid kit.
3. Also remember to carry a snow shovel and an ice-auger to use when you reach that special lake. You will need them to get through the snow and ice on those backcountry lakes.
Your best bet:
For more years than I care to remember, I have hiked (weather permitting) into two, backcountry lakes known as Roosevelt-Lane Lakes.
On April 24, Elaine and I plan to be there, again, for that California Opener.
Those two, small, interconnected lakes are located at an elevation of 7,400 feet in the Hoover Wilderness Area, just south of the U.S. Forest Service Leavitt Meadows Campground on California S.R. 108 (The Sonora Pass Highway).
They are on the north end of the Hoover Wilderness Area and offer a great early-season combination of backpacking, awesome scenery and darn good trout fishing for Lahontan cutthroat and Eastern brook trout.
As a matter of record, my all-time best at these two lakes are a 22-inch cutthroat trout taken from Roosevelt and a 21-inch brookie from Lane (my largest brookie ever caught anywhere!).
Finally, if you are a fisherman and are planning to fish on that 2004 Opening Day, good luck to you. And if you hike into Roosevelt-Lane Lakes, be sure to wave at us, out in our raft.
- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't name the pack station on the Sonora Pass Highway that provides packhorse trips into the Roosevelt-Lane Lakes area.
If he grins and says, "Bart Cranney's Leavitt Meadows Pack Station and he can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 124, Bridgeport, Calif., 93517 or by calling (530) 495-2257," he wins.