Being born in Southern California and catching my first fish in the saltwater has spoiled me for our sun-splashed beaches and the numerous fishing opportunities with the many pelagic species that visit our SoCal coast throughout the year.
I sometimes forget that just a few hours to the north of our sprawling and noisy Los Angeles is a wonderland of pine smells and splashing trout in the sweet water of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The real visual show as you drive north starts near the small town of Lone Pine, where Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States, rises out of the floor of the Owens Valley. At this spot in the Sierra mountain range it’s a good long hike to the fishing areas, but as you go further north there is more drive–in and kayak access to the high altitude lakes. Sherwin Summit just north of the town of Bishop is the real gateway to a treasure trove of lakes where a hands-free Hobie kayak is the best mode of transport.
California’s Eastern Sierras are known worldwide for their trout fishery and the beautiful alpine scenery… think John Muir and Ansel Adams if you need some help visualizing this grand mountain scene.
There are so many ways to fish for the local trout with your Hobie in these ice-cold mountain lakes. When the fish are up and feeding on the surface the fly rod is the best tool, but I’m not an elitist when it comes to getting dinner, so I’ve also been known to soak some salmon eggs or mouse tails when the bite drops off.
Having a Scotty downrigger mounted on my Pro Angler helps me to get down deep with some spinnerbaits or Rapalas when the water gets warmer later in the summer or fall. In the past I used to book only one week vacations but I’ve started adding a second consecutive week so that I can try more of the various fishing methods. I have spent too many hours on the drive back home, going over the many methods or lures I should have used to get that trophy brown trout but just didn’t have the time.
Our meals are a big deal each night while camping and every year we try to add a new trout recipe to our menu. Last year we bought some mahogany double smoked bacon in Bishop and we used it to wrap our trout before cooking it on the campfire coals. A trick with the bacon is to partially cook it before wrapping the trout in it so it gets crunchy, and stuffing the fish with veggies can add many additional levels of flavor to your catch.
Another new addition to our Eastern Sierra trips that adds a whole new dining experience and adventure, is the trapping of the local High Sierra crawfish. These are arguably some of the best tasting crawdads you will ever eat. These are not your typical mud bugs and do not need to be purged. These big crustaceans are being trapped in ice-cold alpine lakes that are lined with granite bottoms and filled with spring runoff fed with pure mountain water. The size of these alpine mini lobsters is nothing short of huge, and many of them turn a blue color when they get really big.
The June Lake Loop just north of the famous Mammoth Ski area is my favorite place to trap these delicious cockroaches del mar, although many areas on both sides of the Sierra mountain range hold crawfish.
The Hobie platform is perfect for setting the traps in the deeper parts of the lake and with the new Mirage Drive 180 it’s easier to back up to get that trap that was just out of reach as you drifted by.
Crawdads are so simple to cook, we usually do a Louisiana style boil. We usually set up a huge boil pot with corn, potatoes, sausage, and lots of Cajun spices one night, and we’ve never had any trouble finding eager diners in the campground to help us enjoy our catch. We’ve also just boiled them in plain water and served them with some melted garlic-butter like a lobster dinner. The giant claws on these big critters hold the sweetest meat in my opinion, although those big tails are pretty tasty too. There’s nothing like sitting around the campfire with a full belly and a cold one in hand while swapping stories about the big one that got away.
The saddest part of every trip to the Sierras is looking back over the kayaks in the rear view mirror and seeing the snow covered mountains disappear as we head south and descend into the Mojave Desert before returning to the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles metropolis once again.
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