The Bishop Creek Canyon is not technically in Southern California but it is one of the best places to go fishing or take a family camping near Southern California. About a 4 hour drive from the Los Angeles area, Bishop Creek boasts numerous public campgrounds, 2 lodges and 1 private RV park. There are 3 drive-to lakes, 2 with marinas and miles of creek loaded with trout. A dozen trail heads lead into the John Muir Wilderness and packtrain (horses) are also available. Plenty of hotels, restaurants and markets are a short 30 minute drive from any of the lakes. Make your summer plans to get up there and experience the Eastern Sierras life for yourself.
Located a t the end of Hwy 168 out of Bishop, Lake Sabrina is a good place to start. Heavily stocked, this lake fishes well from thaw out (it was ice fishing only on opening day, April 30th ) until the end of the season in October. Shore anglers do well bait fishing with Powerbait or worms. I love to rent a boat and go fish where one of the streams enters the lake. These inlets are always a good bet at any lake as the fish line up to see what food gets washed down. Just cast Panther Martins, Mepps or Thomas Bouyant spoons into the current and you should get bites. If it is slow try half a worm on a #10 hook about 12 inches below a split-shot. Cast into the current and let it sink. The Lake Sabrina Boat Landing not only rents boats but serves up a great breakfast. When you finish your day on the water stop by the cafe for great burgers and a slice of home-made pie.
At 9,800 feet in elevation, South Lake is often the last lake to thaw out. Heavily stocked with rainbow trout on a weekly basis, South Lake also holds brown and brook trout. Trolling small Rapalas is the best way to fish for the bigger trout. Of course the shoreline bait fisherman have no problem getting their limits either. Powerbait , worms and salmon eggs are traditional favorites. Light line, 3-4 pound test, is best, along with smaller #10 size hooks. If the wind is not blowing, kayaks and float tubes are a great way to fish. Fly fisherman in particular benefit from the stealthy approach float tubes give while getting away from snagging trees or other lines. South Lake Landing rents motor boats, pontoons and kayaks as well as carrying all your fishing tackle needs. Grab extra bait or snacks there as well.
North Lake is the only natural drive-to lake in the basin. A narrow but not too scary road leads to a beautiful valley featuring North Lake. No facilities are available there except for a restroom. A small lake with limited shoreline, it fishes well for shore anglers as well as float tubers and kayak fisherman. The shore tends to get weeds so casting a bobber/fly combo works well. Try a black or white Woolly Bugger about 5 feet below bubble. Fly fisherman can do well midge fishing from tubes and kayaks. Stocked weekly, but with a healthy native population, this lake fishes well all season long. The scenery is unbeatable and probably the quietest spot in general. North Lake Campground (tent only) is within walking distance to the lake. Want to hit the back country for some high elevation lakes loaded with Golden Trout? Try Bishop Pack Outfitters located near the lake parking lot.
Bishop Creek is by far my favorite area to fish up there. Loaded with stocked rainbows and more brookies than you think could be in there and the occasional brown trout. Small spinners like Panther Martin and Mepps, Super Dupers and Thomas Bouyant spoons work great. Go as small as you can. Leave your long rods at camp ( this is short, ultra light country). Five foot or less, 4 lb test or less line. You will be making short casts upstream or diagonally upstream. Salmon eggs, Powerbait and worms with a small split shot will catch plenty for bait fisherman. My favorite is to fish Berkley Mice Tails on a 1/32 oz tube jig (the type used for crappie jigs). Try different colors from natural brown to chartreuse or pink. Dip in a little garlic trout bait. It’s a new method you might like. Remember to try and release the Brook and Brown trout. They are native-born and will only sustain their population if released. Only keep what you will eat.
Camping is available at 10 different Inyo National Forest campgrounds. Only Four Jeffreys takes reservations (Reserve America) but my favorites are Sabrina campground and Intake 2 Campground as well as Willow Campground. All 3 are situated along Bishop Creek and are close to one of the lakes. RV campers will have to figure out which spots will accommodate the size of their rigs. Four Jeffrey is best bet but Creekside RV is a great alternative with full hookups and a private trout pond.
Lodges offering rustic luxury can be found in the canyon. Cardinal Village Resort is an actual gold mining town that has been converted into a resort. Small cabins that used to belong to house miners and their families are rented out. You can still take a short hike to the old mine. There is a well-stocked pond on the property as well as a store and small cafe. Stop in for breakfast or one their great burgers. Parchers Resort near South Lake was established in 1921 and has been providing folks lodging and more for over 85 years. They have 3 full hookup RV sites and a couple dozen cabins for rent. Some great hikes can be accessed from your cabin. Bishop Creek Lodge is a great place to stay on your trip. Built in the 1920’s, the original cabin serves as the store and cafe. Several housekeeping cabins are available. You can walk over and fish the creek before breakfast and then try your luck at Weir Pond below the South Lake Dam.
The Fall colors that explode from the aspen trees each year can be breathtaking. Winters can be brutal up there at 8,500-9,500 feet, but the late spring and the summers are perfect for vacations. Fall is without a doubt something that must be seen in person. Try and shoot for mid October. You will love it.
Places to eat
Places to eat in the Bishop area are pretty amazing. The best spot is Erick Schat’s Bakery with their famous Sheepherders bread. We grab a few loaves anytime we are passing through. Be sure to try their amazing sandwiches and cinnamon pull-apart bread. Across Main st is Holy Smokes BBQ offering up some delicious ribs and tri-tip. The El Ranchito serves the best Mexican food in the area. If you want to load up for your big day of fishing , hit Jacks Cafe for the best breakfast in town. Be sure to check out the huge trout mounted on the walls. Included is the California state record Brown Trout at over 30 lbs.
The weather up there can change instantly so wear layers. It can go from 40 degrees in the morning to 85 in the afternoon. A sudden rain or wind storm or even snow is not out of the question. The saying up there goes ” If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” Just keep that in mind. So make your plans to head up highway 395 and enjoy all that the Bishop Creek Canyon has to offer.
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” Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever”