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Great fishing at altitude

May 20, 2014

Alex Johnson takes advantage of the solitude early this season at lakes above 10,500 feet, easily accessible, crowd-free and full of hungry, active trout. Photo by Allen Higgenbotham

When ice first melts off of any lake in the spring, the fish are hungry and careless so fishing is always going to be good. Right now throughout the Eastern Sierra that is exactly what is happening.
The short mild winter might have been bad for the Eastern Sierra Nevada as a whole, but it does not seem to have affected the fish. On the contrary the fishing has been great and the lack of snowfall has allowed access to some higher lakes and streams, which are inaccessible after bigger winters like we had in 2010-11.
So far this season, I’ve been taking advantage of areas earlier than usual and have even been getting a little extra exercise doing so. Driving up West Line St. from Bishop to Lake Sabrina and South Lake, you’ll quickly understand what I’m talking about. The lack of snow is allowing access to high alpine lakes earlier than ever. The low snowfall is forcing anglers to walk further to get to the lakes
At Lake Sabrina and South Lake you will also notice the lack of water. The lakes are at or below their pre damming, natural levels and the shores are desolate from where water once stood in their man made reservoirs. Lake Sabrina is being stocked and boats are available for rent, but anglers will have to hoof it (or take high clearance 4x4s) to the water’s edge.
(Editor’s Note: An update from Lake Sabrina on how far out of the natural lake the water has crept will be on the sports page later this week.)
While the extra walking might be a headache for some, there is the hope it might deter some anglers and make the odds of a solitary or at least a more peaceful morning fishing session a little higher. A quick walk around Sabrina or South Lake and you will be rewarded with some good fishing.
North Lake is currently ice free and is stocked. This is a great option and North Lake has been one of the spots that I have been having the most success on my dawn patrols.
This time of year between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekend is historically a slower time of year. As the ice melts out on these alpine and sub-alpine lakes the fish are taking all kinds of bate and fishing has been terrific.
Out of the Big Pine area Lakes 1 and 2 are fishable with Lakes 3, 4 and 5 looking like they will be thawing out any day now. Honestly, any lakes with some good sun exposure below 10,500-feet are already prime for fishing.
Rock Creek Lake has had great fishing the last few weeks and so has its outlet, Rock Creek, which is running clear and has had some of the best and most consistent fishing along U.S. Highway 395. What I’m really excited about is the Little Lakes Valley. This is the trailhead you gain from Rock Creek Lake. The higher lakes should have enough ice melted off in the next week to fish.
So remember that elevations up to 10,500 feet with sun exposure are already clear of ice and that early spring is a great time to get into some popular area with limited crowds before the summer rush.

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