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Great Opening Day for Anglers : Outdoors: Ideal weather and abundance of trout greet fishermen in Eastern Sierra.

May 01, 1994|PETE THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MAMMOTH LAKES — The day was unseasonably warm, with a gentle breeze blowing and the sun's rays streaking through the clouds that shrouded the steep Sierra peaks.

About the only thing missing was a rainbow.

Unless, of course, you happened to be a fisherman. For them, rainbows were plentiful.

Saturday was opening day of the 184-day fishing season in the Eastern Sierra. And what an opening day it was for catching rainbow trout, and to a lesser extent brown and brook trout.

"Absolutely red hot, smokin' hot," said Rick Rockel of Ken's Sporting Goods in Bridgeport.

It was surely one of the more productive openers in history, thanks to nearly ideal weather conditions and record trout plants by the state in the weeks leading up to the event. If anybody was concerned that the DFG won't have as many fish to stock in the summer months, having released most of them early to save money, they didn't show it.

At Crowley Lake Fish Camp above Bishop, an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 showed up, anticipating easy limits. Unlike last year, when a freezing wind blew and the lake was so cold that the fish could hardly move, much less put up a decent fight, the popular reservoir didn't disappoint.

"We had five people hit their full limit by 10 a.m.," said Joe Yamasaki of Cypress, a 10-year opening-day veteran.

Stringer upon stringer was plopped onto cleaning tables, where it was elbow-room only from late morning until midafternoon, by which time most people had already caught their five-fish limits.

Janet Landgard of San Clemente had one of the most impressive stringers, mainly because of the wild-looking, 4.24-pound brown trout hanging next to four fat rainbows.

But Leslie Wanagihara of Oxnard caught the biggest fish at Crowley, a 6.36-pound rainbow. By 5 p.m., it was reportedly the largest fish caught in the Eastern Sierra.

Up U.S. 395, at Convict Lake below Mammoth, fishermen were packed on the lake like sardines in a can, but that didn't stop them from limiting out on trout. By noon, the counter in the general store at Convict was littered with Polaroid shots of fishermen and their stringers of fish.

Ryan Ramsey, a teen-ager from Culver City, caught a 5.2-pound brown trout.

In Mammoth, about 600 at Twin Lakes had few problems catching limits of mostly pan-sized fish, and higher up at lakes Mary, George, Mamie and Horseshoe, fishermen pulled limits of rainbows, browns and brookies through the ice.

At the June Loop, things were no different at each of the four lakes on the loop, but the fish were bigger, many topping out at more than five pounds.

Back at Bridgeport, Rockel was impressed with the fish coming out of Bridgeport Reservoir, but even more so with those being put back into the East Walker River. It appears to have recovered from the massive fish-kill in 1988, when Nevada farmers drained Bridgeport reservoir, silting up the river.

"I had one father and son who caught and released 100 fish," said Rockel, 48, who has lived in the Bridgeport area for 29 years. "It's the best it's been in years. Everybody is catching a tonnage of fish."

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