Fishing Season opens this Saturday, and local businesses are busy preparing for the influx of anglers to the region. With snowpack in some high mountain basins as deep as 80 feet and warm temperatures rising, some of that water has already made its way into Eastern Sierra streams and rivers. In April, Los Angeles declared a State of Emergency to prepare for the record volumes of water it expects to pass through its aqueduct infrastructure in the coming months.
According to Jim Erdman, Environmental Scientist for California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), these high flows are a bigger deal for humans than for fish. “Trout are really strong swimmers and are well adapted to high flow stream life,” said Erdman, adding that Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and Paiute Cutthroat Trout have evolved to adapt to seasonally high stream flows.
Erdman said anglers should expect flows as high as 900 cubic feet per second in larger streams like the Walker and Owens Rivers. As part of his regular data collection and field work, Erdman has been to most of the accessible streams and lakes in Mono County over the last few weeks. He reported that smaller streams, including Bishop and Lee Vining Creeks, are not exhibiting the dramatically high flows seen in The Owens and Walker Rivers. “Fishing those larger rivers will be tougher. Conditions in the lakes and smaller streams should be comparable to last season,” said Erdman.
Most of the millions of acre-feet of water expected to flow into streams and rivers is still trapped as snow. Peak runoff has not yet occurred, which means that there should be plenty of good fishing to be had on opening day. As flows increase, unusually high runoff may push spawning Rainbow Trout to migrate further upstream in search of lower water levels. “This year’s spawn may or may not go so well,” said Erdman, who added that manual stocking is still the primary process that sustains fisheries in the Eastern Sierra. “This is absolutely a great thing in the long run for spawning fish,” said Erdman.
“These flushing flows will scour away all the sediment that has cemented to the gravel and sand on streambeds in the last four years of drought and create great spawning habitat for the next few seasons.”
CDFW Warden Lieutenant Bill Dailey told The Sheet that his staff will be present throughout Mono County enforcing take limits and checking for fishing licenses. Anglers are allowed to catch and keep a maximum of 5 fish per day at Topaz Lake, Crowley Lake, Convict Lake, The Bridgeport Reservoir, and The June Lake Loop Waters. For more information about regulations on specific bodies of water, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations or call 760.872.1171.