Banks busy, river not overdrawn for fishing opener |

Banks busy, river not overdrawn for fishing opener

Rick Chandler

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of hitting a home run on opening day – just ask Scott Wheelock of Coalinga.

Saturday was the official beginning of fishing season, and as per usual the fish won. But the opener did provide a few scattered highlights for our team, including Wheelock’s big catch on the east fork of the Carson River, just south of Hangman’s Bridge.

“I’ve been out here since 8 a.m., but I just got to this spot,” said Wheelock, who landed a 20-inch, 3 1/2-pound rainbow at about 1 p.m. “This is my first opening day. I think I like it.”

Wheelock, who along with fishing partner Paul Thornton work for the Department of Corrections in Hanford, were among the throng of anglers who took to Northern California lakes and streams on Saturday in search of the elusive trout.

Action was heavy along both forks of the Carson, although few actual fish were being reeled in.

“We haven’t caught a thing,” said Ken Fetch, a retired engineer from Sacramento who was fly fishing the east fork along with his two nephews. “I usually fish here on weekdays, when there are less people. But I had to get out here on opening day; it’s a tradition.”

There was a healthy mixture of visitors and locals trying their luck on Saturday in the Hope Valley area, according to Bob Rudden, who owns the Markleeville General Store. Rudden sells bait and fishing supplies, making Saturday an opening day of sorts for him, also.

“The crowd today was about normal (for opening day),” he said. “But I have a feeling that this is going to be a great year up here, because they’re stocking some big fish.”

Is that a sincere prediction, or merely a fish tale? It sounds pretty accurate to 12-year-old Dillon McLaughlin, a Markleeville resident who ambled into Rudden’s store earlier that day with a 5-pound rainbow – taking the early lead in Rudden’s annual fish derby (biggest fish of the season wins the angler a $230 fly rod).

“I’d like to see a kid win it, but I don’t think five pounds is going to do it,” Rudden said.

Last year’s winner lugged in a 6-pound, 1-ounce rainbow.

Along with Saturday’s crowd of hopeful anglers, there was also a bevy of equally-hopeful game wardens. But citations were few, according to Dave Bezzone of the Department of Fish and Game.

“Usually the people you see out here on opening day are quite well aware of the regulations,” said Bezzone, a 19-year veteran with Fish and Game, who has been working in the Central Sierra region for about three years.

“Opening day is more or less a (public relations) day, where we’re out displaying our colors,” he said. “You’re not going to see a lot of fish taken this week anyway. The best water is yet to come.”

But as always, the best PR was scored by the natural beauty of Hope Valley.

“I’ve been coming here to fish since 1950,” said Fetch. “I love this country. There’s a lot more people than there used to be, but it’s worth it.”

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