Fern Creek Lodge and the Fishing Opener go way back
While snow-enthusiasts may bemoan another relatively dry year in the Eastern Sierra, the early snowmelt means a fantastic fishing season beginning with the annual Mono County fishing opener April 27. Business owners from Crowley to Walker look forward to the arrival of “fishmas,” and Jon Coats, owner of Fern Creek Lodge on the June Lake Loop, is no different. Coats is proud of the Lodge’s part in fishing opener history; “People have been coming to the June opener since they were young, and bring their families up now,” he said. “I’ve seen many people that used to stay with us back in the 70s and 80s. It’s really neat to see people you haven’t seen in 24 years.”
Fern Creek Lodge, located 5 miles off U.S. 395 just past June Lake, is the oldest year-round resort on the Loop. It has provided a welcome home for winter and summer travelers since it was established in 1927; Coats’s family took over ownership in 1977. Although Jim and Melva Coats sold the Lodge in 1989, Jim and son Jon reacquired the business last year. “I couldn’t just let it go,” said Jon Coats. He reopened the doors on July 1, just in time to enjoy one of the best summers on record. With thawed lakes and rising rivers, Coats anticipates another great season of fishing and fun.
Coats has made some changes to Fern Creek Lodge since last year, including stocking the Lodge general store with healthier choices, fine wines and beer; repairing cabins and installing new furniture; and offering free WiFi throughout the premises. “There’s a lot of upkeep, and it’s going to be a continuing progression,” he said. Currently, Fern Creek Lodge offers 10 rental cabins, from comfortable 2-story, 4-bedrooms, to cozy 1-bedroom cabins, all with fully equipped kitchens and color televisions. The Lodge also provides common areas, including an outdoor fireplace, barbecues, and a fish cleaning station perfect for this opening weekend.
The rustic, tranquil feel of the Lodge attracts not just fishermen during the opener, but summer outdoor enthusiasts from Southern California, the Bay Area, and abroad. “I have a good customer base that comes and stays here because it’s conveniently close to Yosemite,” Coats said. “They use this as base, and they take off and go to Yosemite for a day, or they take off and go to Crowley, or Devils Postpile.”
The Coats family moved to June from Long Beach in 1976, just in time for one of the worst drought years on record. Because the winter was so cold, but lacked snowfall, lakes were covered with ice well into spring. Coats recalled the ’76 fishing opener: “The ice was so thick, we were out there breaking it up in boats just so people could actually fish,” he said. This year, there will be no such difficulties. Mono County waters are fully stocked with over half a million pounds of trout, and on the June Lake Loop, June, Gull and Silver lakes are thawed and ready for fishing. To celebrate, Coats is throwing his own, free-entry fishing derby on Sunday, April 28. Prizes will be awarded for a blind bogey, kid’s largest fish, and ugliest fish. Prizes include a 2-night stay at Fern Creek Lodge, and “lots of other prizes,” Coats said. The Lodge will also offer free hot dogs and bottled water.
The fishing opener is just the first of a series of outstanding events in June this summer, Coats noted. He listed the upcoming June Lake Triathlon (July 12-13), June Lake Loop Mountain Music Festival (July 23-27), and Fireman’s Barbecue (August 10), among others.
Although Coats lived in Carson City for 12 years before resuming ownership of Fern Creek Lodge, June “has always been my home,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed the small town living. I like the community support, and it’s just so beautiful here.” This weekend, locals and visitors alike will have the chance to enjoy the small town charm of June, as well as the hospitality of Fern Creek Lodge, as spring fishing season portends the bounty of summer.