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Best Tip for Trout Opener: Stay Alert on the Road

April 27, 2001|PETE THOMAS

If you're among the thousands of fishermen who will be traveling north on U.S. 395 today, hoping to get to the party on time, here's a sobering fact:

Inyo County's highways, U.S. 395 in particular, have claimed nine lives already this year, far above normal. And most of those accidents involved drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Today, as is the case a day before any Eastern Sierra trout season opener, traffic will be especially heavy on 395, building throughout the morning and peaking in late afternoon and early evening. This is when the potential for disaster is greatest.

"A lot of people coming up for the opener will work half a day first, and by the time they get up here they're just too tired to drive," said officer Marc Morrison of the California Highway Patrol in Bishop. "We strongly recommend that they stop and switch drivers periodically, or pull over to rest for a few minutes--whatever it takes to get here safely."

Once there, Morrison cautioned, fishermen can party to their hearts' content, as long as they don't get behind the wheel afterward.

"We do get people who settle in up in the hills at their campgrounds or wherever, have too much to drink and then feel the need to drive into town and that's a problem," Morrison said. "We'd just as soon not arrest anyone, but we don't want anyone to get hurt either, so we'll be watching that very closely."

Morrison did have one other tip. "Power Bait," he said. "I think that'll be the hot ticket on opening day."


Planning to auger in a new season from atop a layer of ice? If so, Gary Olson offers these words of wisdom:

"What most people do is, No. 1, they toss a rock about six to eight inches in diameter about 10 feet out and if it breaks through the ice then, no, obviously you shouldn't go out. You then go out about 10 feet and drill about eight to 10 inches with your auger and, if you're still into solid ice, then everything's fine."

Olson is owner of Bishop Creek Lodge and runs the concession at South Lake. South Lake and nearby Sabrina and North lakes, atop Bishop Creek Canyon at 9,000-plus feet, are expected to have ice two to three feet thick on opening day. The same goes for Rock Creek Lake near Mammoth Lakes.

These lakes should support the weight of an opening-day crowd, but conditions can change in a hurry and fishermen are urged to consult with experts before stepping out, and few will actually suggest that you do so.

Ice fishing, literally and figuratively, will not be the hottest ticket on opening day.


Fishing is expected to be superb throughout most of the Eastern Sierra this weekend.

Many will log five-fish limits well before lunchtime. Invariably, some will not stop at five and those are the people Department of Fish and Game wardens will be looking for.

"I have four wardens stationed here and I'm bringing down another 17 for opening weekend," said Lt. A. Lawrence, who is based in Bishop. "We'll have several special details deployed in [Inyo and Mono counties]."

Lawrence said they will be after "the small minority who willfully violate the law."

Of the 4-8% said to fall into this category, most will be guilty of over-limit fishing.

Last year, wardens on opening weekend issued 79 citations--34 for over-limits, 15 for using barbed hooks in restricted waters, 12 for fishing before the start of the season, seven for fishing without a license, seven for possessing undersized fish and one each for chumming, giving a false statement to a warden, using two poles and fishing in a closed area.

In all, 30 waters in the two counties carry special restrictions. They're clearly described in alphabetical order in DFG regulations booklets, which are available in sporting goods stores throughout the region.


* Local: The focus remains on Catalina, where good weather finally enabled consistent access to the island's windward side, resulting, as predicted, in some excellent runs on white seabass. The oft-finicky croakers have been biting all week, at times in the predawn darkness and at times in late afternoon. One-fish limits have been the rule.

* Southern Baja: Two weeks ago they were targeting sierra mackerel off Cabo San Lucas--fishing was that bad. This week? Catches include a 507-pound blue marlin, a 370-pound black marlin, a 420-pound hammerhead shark and a 272-pound swordfish. The water has warmed from the mid-60s to 71 degrees and the game fish are responding. Tuna counts remain high, and striped marlin and wahoo numbers are rising with the temperature. The best fishing has been in the gulf, but at midweek attention turned to the Pacific. . . . The East Cape and La Paz areas are still experiencing north winds, but the windy season is all but over and fishermen have been scoring impressive numbers of tuna during calm periods, anticipating a seasonal increase in marlin activity.


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