Heenan Lake fishing season opener is just around the corner | NevadaAppeal.com

Heenan Lake fishing season opener is just around the corner

Don Quilici

In case you’ve forgotten or if you’re new to this area, here’s another annual Don Q suggestion: The Friday before Labor Day always marks the opening day of a special fishing season at an easy-to-reach, nearby location.

If you would like to enjoy a different type of angling experience, set aside Friday, Aug. 31 for the opening day of the 2007 fishing season at Heenan Lake in nearby Alpine County, Calif.

If you’re interested and if the weather (wind) and if the late summer water conditions (some algae bloom along the shoreline) allow, here is some useful information:

How to get there:

Take a combination of U.S. 395, Nev. S.R. 88 and Calif. S.R. 88, south to Woodfords, a distance of about 30 miles. At Woodfords, turn left and take the combination of S.R. 4 and S.R. 89 for about seven miles to Markleeville. Then, continue right on through Markleeville until you reach the Monitor Pass Junction.

At that junction, take S.R. 89 east toward Topaz Lake. Heenan Lake will be on your right, about 4-5 miles up from the Junction.

How to fish:

You should preferably fish from a float tube, inflatable raft, canoe or small boat. You can fish from shore, but you’ll have much better success out on the surface of the water.

What to use:

If you’re a fly fisherman, you should try an assortment of different flies, such as Antron Caterpillars, Leeches, Prince Nymphs, Woolly Buggers, Zug Bugs, etc.

If you’re a spincaster, try various lures, such as Mepps, Kastmasters, Panther/Martins, Super Dupers, TOR-P-DO’s, etc.

What you’ll catch:

You’ll catch Lahontan cutthroat trout, with many of them running up to very impressive sizes, both in weight and in length.

Fishing season:

Heenan Lake is open only from the Friday before Labor Day through the last Sunday in October, each year. This year that season is: Aug. 31 to Oct. 28.

You can only fish on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during that special period of time.

Don’t be dumb enough to fish on Mondays-Thursdays, it could cost you a lot of money if the Calif. game warden spots you.

Special Regulations:

Heenan is a “catch and release” lake, which means that the limit is zero fish. Any cutthroat that you catch must be released unharmed. Anglers are encouraged to practice “airless” catch and release, which keeps the trout in the water, at all times, while trying to release it.

You can only use artificial flies or lures, with barbless hooks.

Fishing hours are from sunrise to sunset.

You must park your vehicle outside the locked gate at the lake.

Gasoline boat motors are not permitted on the lake.

You must wear your California fishing license where it is readily visible above the waist (On the Opening Weekend, the game warden will definitely be watching everyone).

Heenan Lake tributaries are closed to all fishing all year.

Special Note:

On Opening Weekend, there could be 60-80 float tube fishermen, scattered all over the surface of the lake. They will look like a whole bunch of colorful Cheerios, floating around in a big bowl.

If you’re someone who seeks solitude when fishing, Opening Weekend at Heenan Lake is definitely not going to be your cup of tea. If you like solitude, you would be well advised to go somewhere else. Don’t say you weren’t warned.


If you are not a fisherman, what the heck: The ride to Heenan Lake, the surrounding high-country scenery and the sight of all of those colorful float tubes out on the water on the Opening Weekend will still be well worth the time and effort.

Remember to take your camera.

Then when you are done sightseeing and photographing, continue driving on S.R. 89 to the top of Monitor Pass and down the other side to its intersection with U.S. 395, just south of Topaz Lake.

Drive careful, the road is steep and winding, and be prepared for the many different photo opportunities everywhere along this drive.

As you drop down from Monitor Pass, the large valley to the south is Slinkard Valley.

For Information:

Call either the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce at (530) 694-2478 during their regular business hours or my good friend Dave Kirby at the Woodfords Station in Woodfords at (530) 694-2930.

• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you what can sometimes be see in the area of Heenan Lake.

If he grins and says, “You’re probably talking about the black bears that live in that area,” he could be one of the many people who have spotted and photographed some of them.

• Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal.