BISHOP, Calif. With the general trout season now over in the Eastern Sierra and nearly all waters closed for more than six month, anglers from Central and Southern California who are used to driving along Highway 395 to their favorite hot spot are going to have to retreat elsewhere until the last Saturday in April, when the region's lakes, reservoirs, rivers, streams and creeks reopen.
Nevertheless, there are a few waters in the region that are left open all year to provide some angling opportunities for those still waiting to visit the region. Those waters are pretty much limited to Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the Owens River downstream of the reservoir.
Both waters, located near Bishop, remain open to anglers 365 days a year and provide two waters where anglers can legally fish in the Eastern Sierra and take home a limit of trout. Both waters offer anglers the chance at catching rainbow and brown trout.
The great thing about Pleasant Valley and the Owens River is that while you can still witness the beauty of the snow-capped, jagged peak of the towering Eastern Sierra while making casts in these waters, you don't have to put up with the frigid wintry conditions that you'd face when fishing one of the higher elevation lakes this time of year if it was open.
Once winter arrives early morning temperatures can and will fall below freezing at both waters, but for the most part daytime conditions are mild. Only a few times a year will anglers be forced to contend with snow.
Another great thing about these waters is that each is a drive-to water. There's no hiking involved.
Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the Lower Owens River are stocked frequently throughout the winter months. In fact, sometimes they are stocked weekly.
The concept is to provide fishing prospects to locals, while also helping local merchants and businesses by bringing in anglers from other areas. While mostly anglers from Southern California make the drive up Highway 395 to fish these waters in the winter don't get the wrong idea, crowds are normally thin.
Both waters will be stocked heavily from now through the winter and into spring.
Fish and Game normally sticks to planting half-pound rainbows, however, they tend to add brood fish from time to time. The waters are also planted with Alpers to provide anglers with a trophy fishery to chase.
Pleasant Valley Reservoir doesn't allow boats of any kind. The 115-acre reservoir is a dammed portion of the Owens River and is home to thousands of rainbows trout and some brown trout. This reservoir is ideal for first-time anglers to approach as well as hardcore anglers who have frequented the Sierras for decades.
Keep in mind, float tubes are permitted, so there is a chance to get off the bank and generate success.
At Pleasant Valley, most anglers set up shop along the dam where they proceed to oftentimes catch easy limits of trout. With plants coming often and Fish and Game dumping nearly 50,000 trout in a year, you can expect to do fair well.
Therefore, in addition to the fresh planters that arrive each year you have several classes of fish that reside in the reservoir from years past.
Natural reproduction also takes place. In short, there's no shortage of trout available and don't feel bad about taking a limit of fish home to eat. That's what they are here for.
Getting the trout to bite won't be a chore. As winter set in, it's a good idea to wait until the sun hits the water before you start fishing. By all means you can catch trout at first light. However, with nighttime temperatures dipping low the trout can be sluggish early in the day. On the other hand, there's so many trout available that you'll be able to find some feeding fish at any time during the day.
Hands down, most anglers cast and retrieve lures off the face of the dam. You'll be able to spot rising trout most of the time and if you have a good pair of polarized glasses you'll be able to see them cruising along the bank.
Medium-size lures work best. They enable you to cast towards deeper water and cover more water than a lightweight spoon or spinner that you can only cast 15 feet.
Try using a red and gold Thomas Buoyant, silver and red Super Duper, orange Cripplure, silver or gold Kastmaster or gold and red Krocodile. If you want to toss spinners, they'll work, too.
A Rooster Tail, Mepps, Blue Fox or Panther Martin is sure to attract bites. Many locals swear by fly and bubble combos as well.
Natural baits are tough to beat. Anglers looking to inflate night crawlers off the bottom, drown crickets and grasshoppers or those that know how to use a Mike's Scented Marshmallow and an Eagle Claw hook to keep a Pautzke Balls 'O Fire salmon egg off the bottom will do well.
Anglers have the option of walking alongside the access road to the inlet to catch rainbows and browns. You'll find very little pressure in this area and have the chance to catch some quality fish.
Fly fishing, casting spoons, spinners, stickbaits and using natural and processed baits is effective in this area. (A tip: it's a long walk to the inlet a few miles, at least bring a bike and you'll have lots more fishing time.)
Below Pleasant Valley, the Owens River offers anglers more than 40 miles of water that's stuffed with trout and opened year-round.
Before you tackle the Owens though, make sure to break out the regulations because the lower river is broken up into pieces. Some spots only allow catch and release, others you can keep five fish per day, some have gear restrictions.
Unless you are a fly fisherman, you are going to want to focus on the 23-mile stretch of water from Bishop to Big Pine. This section is stocked with more than 63,000 half-pound rainbows in addition to wild rainbows and browns and holdovers from year's past.
The great thing about this section is that there are no gear restrictions and you can keep five trout a day and have 10 in possession. This section can be fished from a drift or pontoon boat, or from the bank.
There are dirt roads that pave the way for easy access to the river.
This area is best fished with spinners, spoons and salmon eggs and worms.
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