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Trout Opener Is a Work of Art

Picturesque conditions greet anglers, many of whom leave with a limit of fish.

April 30, 2006|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

JUNE LAKE, Calif. — The scene from the Gull Lake dock looked as though it belonged on canvas.

A placid green surface mirrored the radiant blue sky, which provided stark contrast to the towering snow-covered peaks, amid which this small body of water is nestled.

But slowly, the still life began to exhibit movement. One small boat motored slowly from right to left. On another, a fly-fisherman's line glistened in the sunlight as it was pulled from the water and whipped through the air anew.

Soon there were tiny splashes, then there were hoots, and ultimately there was the total disruption of this magnificent portrait as fishermen began returning to the docks with stringers of rainbows.

They were not alone. Picture-postcard weather greeted most of the thousands of anglers who fanned across the Eastern Sierra on Saturday morning for the opening of the trout-fishing season.

And aside from a few mishaps, such as the capsizing of a boat at June Lake and an avalanche that blocked access to Sabrina Lake, it ranked among the most memorable openers.

The skyrocketing price of gas?

"It's an issue, but it would never stop us. We'd mortgage the house if we had to," David Lozano, 48, an attorney from Arcadia, said as his rainbow tipped the scale at just under six pounds.

David and his father, Fred Lozano, were part of a group of about 30 anglers who have been coming to opening day for more than 20 years.

"This is the first day on our calendar," Lozano continued. "For us, this day is the start of a whole new year."

As of late afternoon, bragging rights belonged to Anthony Ayala, 14, of Pico River, who caught a 10 1/2 -pound rainbow at Intake II above Bishop. It was weighed on a personal hand-scale (once at 11 1/2 pounds) before witnesses.

Among them was Marlon Meade of Anaheim, who caught five rainbows totaling 24 pounds 4 ounces.

On the June Lake Loop, Jenny Thoresen of Bishop caught a 7-pound 8-ounce rainbow from Rush Creek.

Making a bigger splash, however, were three fishermen whose sudden weight shift caused their boat to capsize and sink at June Lake. They emerged red-faced and shivering, but uninjured.

Bridgeport's top angler was local resident Sydney Beard, 9, who caught a 6-pound 12-ounce rainbow from Bridgeport Lake.

To the south, at Convict Lake, there seemed an endless parade of fishermen toting two- to five-pound trout.

Among them was Jarren Klohr of Yucaipa, who won $10,000 by catching a tagged fish that was part of a tackle-company promotion.

"I'm still shaking. I don't know what to say," he said.

Nearby at sprawling Crowley Lake, about 7,000 anglers caught five-fish limits or near-limits of mostly rainbows averaging about 1 1/4 pounds, though tops was a 5-pound 10-ounce trout by Brian Zinni of Newhall.

Curtis Million, a Department of Fish and Game biologist, said the average size was slightly above the norm and credited an early thaw, which stimulated feeding behavior, and balmy temperatures that enabled fishermen to stayed out longer and keep only their largest trout as part of their limits.

"I'd say that in the past 20 years there were maybe three other openers with the overall sense of everybody catching fish," he said.

"There are no excuses out there."

Then there was Rick Apted, who had an excellent excuse for the sparse crowd at Sabrina Lake above Bishop. A midweek avalanche blocked vehicle access and those who wanted to fish there hiked more than two miles.

"I counted 13 anglers, including me and my wife," the concessionaire said.

"But at least I got to go fishing; I've never been able to do that on opening day. And there's no shortage of fish, I'll tell you that."

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