“Cold, but fun,” is how Tawni Thompson, Director of the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce summed up the opening day of fishing season.
Spirits ran high and stringers full for California’s fishing opener on the Eastside, despite snow and rain, wind and frigid temperatures. The boat dock at Crowley Lake was full to capacity and anglers shoulder-to-shoulder at the Intake II dam.
Smiling anglers proudly raised lunker fish for display and pictures against a backdrop of snow blowing horizontal and near white caps on the lakes.
Abbie Grooms, Manager for Crowley Lake Boat Landing, called it “one of the busiest openers in quite a few years.” The little bit of precipitation over the past couple days helped bring the water up and made the sold-out docks accessible. The snow did slow things down a little, though.
Anglers were “trickling in” Saturday morning at Crowley, Grooms said, and blamed the weather and snow. Plenty of boats full of snow were still making their way down from Mammoth to Crowley at 8 a.m. There were also the absence of “a big contingency,” Grooms said; the locals. She said she wasn’t too worried about it, and expected to see local faces at the lake later in the week.
And there’s reason to go—the fishing is good. Plenty of fishermen on the shore had lunkers, not many, but the fish were big. Grooms said the lake is full of fish, a welcome gift thanks to the unwelcome drought. The low water levels force local Hot Creek Hatchery to close some pools and chutes to keep levels high enough in the rest of the facility. This leaves plenty of fish homeless. Grooms said Crowley is chosen by the Department of Fish and Game as a place for those extra fish, to the joy of fisherman and woman.
Plenty of folks were limiting out before 8 a.m. at Intake II. The June Lake General Store said it was a busy weekend with plenty of boats in the water and people on the streets. Bridgeport Reservoir said it too had a good weekend even with the weather. Mono County Tourism bought plenty of fish to put in the reservoir, which was a blessing said Jeff Wenger, owner of the Bridgeport Reservoir’s RV Park and Marina.
Families that have been coming up for decades, like the Gonzales’ from Southern California celebrating 40 years of openers at Crowley, were undeterred by the weather, and were roasting marshmallows by a fire.
Thompson said she saw plenty of people with fish and smiles despite the wintry conditions, some saying they would be back in the summer.
Old man with lunker, Kari Saario of Simi Valley showed off a beautiful cutthroat caught off the shore at Crowley on opening day.
Saario said he’s been fishing in the same spot at the lake for 48 years.