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Trout season nears in Mono County, where angling for rooms is part of the big fish frenzy

"Fishmas" comes to the Eastern Sierra the last Saturday of April. That's April 30, the opening of trout season in Mono County.

Thousands of anglers are expected to turn up for fishing derbies and other festivities at spots along Highway 395, including Crowley Lake, Convict Lake, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, the June Lake Loop and Bridgeport Reservoir.

At Tom's Place near Crowley Lake, owners Mark and Michelle Layne plan their usual fishing derby with $1,000 in cash prizes, including $100 for the biggest fish (last year's was more than 9 pounds) and bargain prices for hot dogs and beer.

"It's an amazing time," said Michelle. "I can pretty much pay all my winter bills on that weekend."

The resort's 11 cabins and seven guest rooms are not only booked for that weekend, she said, but they're also booked with standing reservations that often get passed down through generations. In January "we had a customer pass away. And I'm not kidding you, somebody called and said, 'He died yesterday. Can I have his reservation?'" (The answer was no. It went to the late angler's family.)

At Double Eagle Resort in June Lake, front desk agent Shaina Pearlman reported that by mid-February, about half of the lodging's 32 rooms and cabins were already reserved for the opener, despite perennial uncertainty about weather.

Depending on whether there's late snow, "you could be ice-skating or you could be water-skiing" on April 30 when not angling, Pearlman said.

Given the substantial snows so far this winter, she added, skiing at Mammoth Mountain probably will still be an option too.

Info: To buy a California sport fishing license (required of anyone age 16 or older), head to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife website. This year's rates: $15.12 for one day, $47.01 for the year if you're a California resident. Mono County's trout-fishing season ends Nov. 15. Read more about California fishing.

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