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SPORTS WEEKEND | OUTDOORS

Fuse Is Lit for Promising Trout Opener

March 31, 2000|PETE THOMAS

One month till the fireworks begin.

They'll light the dawn sky at 4:45 on April 29 and the early birds will be the last thing the worms have to worry about.

Another six months of trout-fishing season will be underway in the Eastern Sierra, kicked off in grand fashion with a pyrotechnical display at Crowley Lake, where nearly 10,000 hopeful anglers will cast not only worms, but shiny new lures and an array of processed baits in an all-out assault that will last all day.

When the sun sets, if everyone catches the limit, nearly 50,000 trout will end up in the frying pan. And that's only at Crowley.

And although the opener is still a month away, it's not too soon to know that things are shaping up nicely from Bishop to Bridgeport.

At Crowley, the water temperature is already about 48 degrees and, barring a late spate of winter, it should be in the low 50s for opening day--ideal for trout activity.

"I can see fish jumping already," said Jeff Topp, who runs the Crowley Lake Fish Camp concession with his wife, Heather. "They're coming up with the afternoon midge hatch. One was so big it looked like a football flying out of the water."

Crowley, already loaded with holdover trout from previous seasons, received a generous plant of 475,000 fingerlings last fall. The reservoir froze over only briefly in January and has been ice free for more than a month, so the fingerlings have had ample opportunity to feed and grow--and should weigh a pound or more by opening day.

On the water this season will be a rental fleet of about 70 aluminum boats outfitted with swivel bucket seats to replace uncomfortable bench seats, Topp said, and four new four pontoon boats--bringing the pontoon fleet to five--that will carry up to eight anglers.

Topp said there are even plans to install showers at the camp but does not expect them to be in place for opening weekend.

Crowley will open its gates April 26 to allow boats to be put in and Topp said there is still dock space available. Camping areas will fill, as usual, on a first-come, first-served basis when the lake opens for business on opening day. For details, call (760) 935-4301.

"This year is shaping up to be even better than the last three or four," Topp said. "We have ideal conditions. We have 120% of our normal snowpack up the hill and all that cold runoff should keep the algae down during the hot summer months, so there should be good opportunity all season."

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Wintry weather would spoil things for those anticipating a sunny, comfortable opener. But fishing conditions are expected to be good throughout most of the Eastern Sierra regardless of what Mother Nature delivers.

Lakes below 7,500 feet are mostly ice free. Even Twin Lakes at Mammoth, which often features ice fishing on opening day, should have open water--and livelier trout because of it.

Twin Lakes at Bridgeport will be free of ice and Upper Twin, which received 2,500 rainbows in the 3- to 5-pound range after last season, will be further enhanced by a plant of 200 to 400 brown trout from two to four pounds. This is courtesy of the Upper Twin Lake Fish Enhancement Program and is in addition to the Department of Fish and Game's pre-opener plants.

At Convict Lake, always a popular spot on opening day, there is no ice to speak of and the banks are mostly free of snow. A 10-pound 4-ounce rainbow collared at Convict during last year's opener was the biggest opening-day fish in the Eastern Sierra.

Concessionaire David DeSurra said the lake received about 1,000 DFG brood-stock rainbows in the 3- to 5-pound class after last season and will be spiced up with 50 Alpers' rainbows in the 3- to 7-pound range days before the opener, so Convict again should be a great place for quality, if not quantity.

The campground at Convict will open April 26, and its 88 spots are expected to be filled by dusk April 27.

Convict is at 7,600 feet, so that is an indication of how high you have to go to find substantial ice. The lakes atop Bishop Creek Canyon should offer the most accessible ice fishing, although ice fishing is always precarious.

South Lake, just above 10,000 feet, is covered with about three feet of ice and the road to the lake is expected to be open. North and Sabrina lakes are still iced over--although North will be accessible via a mile-long hike.

Access to Bishop Creek should be very good, as the snow is melting fast below 8,000 feet. Intake II and the South Fork will be planted with trophy-sized Alpers rainbows before opening day and the Middle Fork will be put into the rotation in the days thereafter. The DFG will make the rounds throughout this area before the opener as well.

Tim Alpers, whose beautiful and delectable rainbow trout have become famous, said the creeks of southern Inyo County--Baker, Taboose, etc.--should not be overlooked as they will be stocked with half- to one-pound rainbows on April 26.

The Alpers truck won't make its rounds in Mono County until late May--before the Memorial Day weekend.

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