California Trout Lakes Part 1 East Sierra

Trout experts fish lakes early because streams run high and cold for the traditional April end opening of the trout season. Favorite High Sierra waters such as Lake Tahoe and well-known foothill impoundments such as New Hogan, Pardee or Comanche Reservoirs don't need mention; most fishermen know them well and fish them often. Lesser known lake clusters also let early season anglers switch rather than fight unfavorable conditions such as water that's below 50 degrees or above 65 degrees. Especially where you add decent campgrounds and reasonable road access.

While boaters take fewer, if larger, trout trolling small minnow plugs than the traditional mid-season flashers and worms, bank fishermen find fishing best in the current at stream inlets, off points and in shallow coves that warm first. Worms, salmon eggs and, where legal, minnows work best if water temperature remains below 50 degrees. In warmer water cast 1/4-ounce gold Kastmasters and spinners. Fly fishermen use small streamers, Woolly worms and wet flies in most waters.

Brisk evening temperatures, sometimes soggy campsites above 5,000 foot elevation, uncertain weather and omnipresent mosquitoes suggest sweaters, rainwear and 100 percent DEET insect dope, but seem a small price to pay for decent fishing. However, those who fish lower elevation areas or move to new waters take more fish than those who tough it out in dubious conditions. To do this without wasting time and gas it's helpful to consider lake clusters. Here are 10 lakes in convenient clusters for weekend trips well-worth a cast or so.


Bridgeport Reservoir and Topaz Lake, two rather unattractive looking bodies of water just off Highway 395, hold larger than average trout if you don't mind the long drive over the Sierra. Topaz adds gambling since it's half in Nevada and some surprisingly good trout action most mornings. In the afternoon winds usually hamper boating and many head west on Highway 89 to fish beaver ponds or streams towards Meyers and Markleville. Bait works near the marina and off the Douglas County Recreation Area that, like the Marina and Trailer Park offer full hookups.

Bridgeport Reservoir, 45 miles south at the east end of the Sonora Pass has exceptional brown trout fishing from boats with fair to good fishing off the bank at Rainbow point and near inlet streams and submerged channels. Falling Rock Marina and Paradise Shores Park offer hookups and ramps. Stream Fishermen take big brown trout to the Nevada Border on the East Walker River. Nearby stream action in the West Walker River off Highway 108 and "stroll in" two fish special regulation trophy brook trout in Kirman Lake near Leavitt Meadows Campground fill a weekend.

Kirman Lake, just east of Bridgeport, offers some of the best catch and release fishing for cutthroat and brook trout in California. It’s an easy stroll in and, when it’s hot early in the year, a wonderful spot to learn to flycast on still water.

Do check on rules are regulations for sizing, keeping and releasing trout!