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Kokanee and Trout Fishing in California's Eastern Sierra

Kokanee and Trout Fishing in California's Eastern Sierra

By Anthony Michael, Mack’s Lure Pro Staff

With winter in the rearview mirror and summer on the horizon, it is time to start looking forward to fishing the Eastern Sierra. With the record amount of snow just beginning to melt, angler anticipation is starting to heat up with “Fishmas” quickly approaching.

I took a drive down Highway 395 through Bridgeport Reservoir, June Lake Loop and Crowley Lake in late April 2023 to do some scouting and see just how far away the season opener would be. While anything is possible, we will need a good amount of wind and warm temperatures to have a fully open opener.

Bridgeport Reservoir was not visible with a blanket of snow still covering the ice over the lake, which was the same for Crowley Lake. While it may delay a full opening, there is still plenty to prepare for as to ensure we’re ready to fish when the ice is gone.

Kokanee and Trout Fishing in California's Eastern Sierra

Best lakes to target trout and kokanee in the Eastern Sierra

My personal favorite fisheries to target are the Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, which are just a short drive west of Bridgeport through the rolling cow pastures along Robinson Creek. Both lakes offer full-service resorts, launch ramps, boat rentals and everything you’ll need for a stellar fishing adventure. When people think about fishing the Eastern Sierra Lakes, both rainbow and brown trout come to mind, however the Upper and Lower Twin Lakes also have a healthy population of Kokanee, as well!

I first caught Kokanee at Lower Twin Lake as a bycatch while fishing for rainbow trout. I was pulling a Cripplure near the surface and up came a kokanee. After that accidental kokanee, I began to really hunt for them when the trout fishing had slowed down, a transition that typically begins in July and through the rest of the season.

How to target kokanee in the Eastern Sierra’s Twin Lakes

Both Upper and Lower Twin Lakes have pretty deep channels running through the middle with depth reaching up to 120-feet on an average pool year. These lakes are full of kokanee in the 10- to 12-inch range with some topping upwards of 14 inches. When targeting kokanee, I am typically running long, sweeping S-turns down the middle of the lake at between 1.2 and 1.7 mph. In 2022, we found them between 55- and 80-feet. Be sure to keep tabs on your fish finder and you will see schools of them!

My go-to presentation when targeting Twin Lakes kokanee is a Sling Blade Original 4” in Nickel/Silver with a decent bend in it, as to manipulate its action, which is paired with a Double Whammy Kokanee Pro. I like to shorten my leader to about 18 inches. I’m not as concerned with color as long as pinks or reds are featured prominently. The extra flash and action provided by the Smile Blade gives this Wedding Ring lure, which is why the Double Whammy is my go-to presentation.

How to target trout in the Eastern Sierras’ Twin Lakes

As far as trout fishing is concerned for Twin Lakes, I highly enjoy pulling the Cripplure in Red Prism, Glow/Fire Tiger and Silver Prism. I prefer tying the Cripplure with a loop knot, which allows the lure to freely move without restricting its movement and allowing its erratic action to work its magic. While trolling the Cripplure, I prefer a long-line setup while trolling at 2.2 mph as this higher speed allows me to find the active fish at a quicker pace than a slow method, such as pulling a nightcrawler presentation (which I’ll transition to when the bite gets tough, typically). Also, I will always run my Cripplure on a 2-foot leader of fluorocarbon attached to my main line by a chain swivel to keep my lines from twisting up. When water temperatures warm up as we approach July and August, I will start to introduce my downriggers or leadcore, as to target the deeper water.

Kokanee and Trout Fishing in California's Eastern Sierra

When trolling for Twin Lakes trout in the early season, my troll pattern is to stay in relatively shallow water, typically around 15-feet, with my planer boards on the shore side in roughly 5-feet of water. The rainbow trout really love the flash and vibration of the Cripplure and they’re very aggressive when pulled in. When the fishing slows down, so do I, at which point I will break out the Flash Lite Troll and Pee Wee Wiggle Hoochie rigged with a nightcrawler and slow my trolling speed down to 1.5 mph. Alternatively, at Bridgeport Reservoir and June Lake Loop lakes, my go-to presentation is a Promise Keeper or Boogie Bait, as to provide the trout with a fly-like presentation.

If you do not have a boat or want to give stream fishing a shot, there are plenty of choices to choose from, including a favorite of mine, Robinson Creek, which runs through the Twin Lakes area. They are full of gorgeous rainbows. Simply toss a Cripplure or Promise Keeper and you’ll be in the fish!

The Eastern Sierra is full of great fishing, beautiful scenery and good times. This year, our “Fishmas” may be delayed due to the epic winter we had, but we will have a great season with full lakes and rivers. Merry Fishmas to all and to all a hot bite!

Anthony Michael is Mack’s Lure Pro Staffer, Mack Attack Contributor and operates CalNeva Fishing Guide Service. To book a trip with Capt. Anthony, visit or contact him at (775) 292-9541.

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