DOWN DAY AT CROWLEY LAKE : Fewer Fishermen Have to Work Harder for Smaller Catches at Eastern Sierra Trout Opener

Times Staff Writer

A few old-timers sacrificed themselves for Crowley Lake Saturday to save the proud old fishing hole from a disappointing opening day of the Eastern High Sierra trout season.

The lake’s catch ran the same as last year, averaging a modest 12 1/2 inches and 9/10ths of a pound. They also seemed harder to get than usual, and the turnout of fishermen fell well below expectations of up to 17,500.

The biggest fish checked in were some of 12,000 excess broodstock rainbows of 2 to 5 pounds that have been planted in various roadside waters since last fall. A Department of Fish and Game official called them “the parents of all the other hatchery fish.”


Those who caught the brooders had no complaints, but there was less competition than usual--an estimated 14,000 anglers in all, according to lake manager Dave Griffith.

Where did everybody go? Apparently, farther north to the Bridgeport area for bigger ones.

Rick Rockel of Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport logged so many big brown trout from 5 to 9 1/2 pounds, he said, that “they’re stacked up like cordwood in our freezer out front.”

They came from Lower Twin Lake, Bridgeport Lake and the East Walker River where fishing pressure was “heavier than normal (for opening day),” Rockel said, despite cold wind and an afternoon snowfall.

The largest at an early count was the 9-pound 8-ounce brown caught by Randy Heape of Dixon, Calif., out of the East Walker River.

Tom Mosley of Bridgeport, casting into the Twin, pulled back a trio of 4 1/2-, 4- and 2-pounders, but the quantity counted less than quality. “Most of the guys aren’t here for limits,” Rockel said. “They’re here for the big fish.”

That’s why a lot of people still go to Crowley, even though the lake hasn’t been producing big ones as it once did.

“I think the problem is the food supply isn’t as good as it used to be,” said Bert Ashland of Garden Grove, who has been going to Crowley for nine years. “I think the Sacramento perch eat some of the food supply, and they also feed on the baby trout.”

It’s tough to grow up to be a big fish under those circumstances. But Crowley got 250 of the broodstock--easily identifiable by their hatchery markings--and they rose eagerly to most kinds of unsophisticated bait. Surprisingly, many were caught from shore. But the largest was caught from a boat by Georges Bonnaudet of Los Angeles late in the afternoon, beating out Charles Tadema, a hay company owner from Corona (5-7) and 6-year-old Ryan Toma of Los Angeles (5-6).

Until high winds came up in mid-afternoon and the lake patrol started chasing boats to shelter, anglers also seemed to be working harder for their limits. Ken Gustafson of Ventura returned with the first five-count at 7:30 a.m., 2 hours 10 minutes after the flare was fired.