Upper Owens River Fish Report

Owens River - Section 3 - Upper (above Crowley) - Eastern Sierra, CA (Mono County)

by Tom Loe

Disappointing to be honest. I should be reporting great fishing for the migratory rainbows we call Crowley Steelhead. Numbers have plunged recently. Water conditions have actually been favorable for a solid run on the UO. After numerous years of planting sterile “triploid” fish, the ramifications of this fisheries management (or lack there of) may finally be taking its toll. Triploids have no instinctual mechanisms to spawn; or migrate upstream. They remain in the lake unlike fertile trout that swim upstream to propagate. Sterile fish have been planted exclusively throughout the Sierra in recent years due to laws implemented in the past decade to protect the genetic integrity of native “west slope steelhead”. Changes in the fisheries management plan this year, mostly specific to this water shed,  are permitting the planting of “diploid” trout once again. Hopefully we will see fish counts improve in the tributaries after a couple years.  There are a few bigs around, covering a lot of water can get you a shot at the elusive ones. Some smaller resident fish are sipping on midge clusters in the pillow water of the larger pools during periods of warmer weather.  Getting your rigs on the bottom with water conditions like this require obscene amounts of weight, lengthy leaders, and aggressive mending tactics to achieve drag free drifts. Crystal Eggs, San Juan Worms, #16-18 Assassins (dark and light), #14-16 Crystal Leeches, and #16-20 Copper Tiger Midge, Zebra Midge, and Gillies have been good patterns fished with plenty of weight below an Under-Cator.  There is some nasty mud in the ruts after the ground thaws on some of the two track roads leading down to the river. 

Looking ahead I see a STRONG probability that the spring migration of cutthroat trout will be earlier than usual. Water levels rising in Crowley, elevated water flows, & warmer than normal air temps typically pave the way for these beautiful fish to begin moving in March. Last years run was weak here; but conditions are conducive to a solid show this spring.

The section upstream from the Benton Bridge is open year around with special regulations. Seasonal closures, and angling restrictions apply downstream from the bridge, check regulations before fishing in this section. We walk and wade guide here. During winter we will access the UO with snowmobiles.

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