Heenan Lake season opener around the corner | NevadaAppeal.com

Heenan Lake season opener around the corner

If you’re someone who is new to this area or in case you are a local fisherman who has forgotten, here’s my annual Don Q fishing tip: Each year, the Friday before Labor Day marks the opening day of a special fishing season at an easy-to-reach, fairly close location.

If you are interested and if you would like to enjoy a different type of angling experience, set aside Friday, Aug. 29 (or if you have to, you can play hooky from work) for the opening day of the 2008 trout fishing season at Heenan Lake in nearby Alpine County, Calif.

If the weather (wind) and if the late summer water conditions (some algae along the shoreline) allow, here is some information:

How to get there:

From Carson City, take a combination of U.S. 395, Nev. S.R. 88 and Calif. S.R. 88 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 through Markleeville, go past the Carson River Resort, and continue driving until you reach the Monitor Pass Junction on your left side.

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

How to fish:

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

What to use:

If you’re a fly fisherman, you should try an assortment of 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 some very impressive sizes, both in weight and length.

Fishing season:

Heenan Lake is open from the Friday before Labor Day through the last Sunday in October, each year. This year that season is Aug. 29 to Oct. 26.

Special note:

You can only fish on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during that period of time. Mondays through Thursdays are a great big “No-No.”

Don’t be dumb enough to fish on those days because it could cost you a lot of money if the 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, back into the water.

Anglers are encouraged to practice “airless” catch and release, which means keeping the trout in the water, at all times, while trying to release it.

If you must take a fish out of the water, hold your breath when you do. Then, when you run out of air and have to take a big deep breath, put the fish back in the water, so it can also breathe.

You can only use artificial flies or lures, with barbless hooks. That means no bait of any kind, so don’t even be tempted.

Fishing hours: 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 can use electric motors).

Heenan Lake tributaries are closed to all fishing all year.

Special reminder:

You must wear your California fishing license where it is readily visible above the waist.

On the Opening Weekend, the game warden will be watching everyone very carefully, so don’t say that you were not warned, when he nails you.


On that Opening Weekend, dependent on the weather, there could be as many as 50-60 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. This could be a great “Photo Op” for your new digital camera.

If you’re a fisherman who seeks solitude when fishing, that Opening Weekend at Heenan Lake is definitely not going to be your bag of tea. If you like solitude, you would be well advised to go somewhere else, anywhere else!

It will definitely be crowded.

If you don’t fish:

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, and 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 those fishermen, who would like to take a fish home (if successful), when you are finished fishing at Heenan Lake, just return back down to the East Carson River (upstream from Hangman’s Bridge) and try your luck there with bait, lures or flies.

If you are successful and if you do catch a nice sized rainbow, stop in at the Carson River Resort to have your photograph taken.

Good luck, and remember to smile when your photo is taken.

For Information:

Call the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce at (530) 694-2478 during regular business hours or Dave Kirby at the Woodfords Station in Woodfords at (530) 694-2930 or Todd Sodaro at the Carson River Resort at (877) 694-2229.

Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you what large wild animal can occasionally be seen in the Heenan Lake area.

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

Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal