Heenan Lake hot as season ends
With about three weeks left of the short season at Heenan Lake, located about nine miles southeast of Markleeville on the road to Monitor Pass (Highway 89), angling is very good.
Heenan is a zero-kill special regulation lake managed by the California Department of Fish and Game as an egg-taking lake for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout native to the region.
Since these fish are brood stock, they can be quite large, generally measured in pounds. This makes fishing very exciting for the many anglers that frequent this impoundment.
Fishing is restricted to Friday, Saturday and Sundays from the Friday before Labor Day through the last Sunday in October. Fishing hours are from sunrise to sunset, and only artificial lures or flies with barbless hooks may be used.
The lake has benefited from the recent wet winters as have many of our local waters. With more water, the fish have become a healthy population once again. During the drought, a major fish kill occurred here when the water became too warm and was depleted of the necessary oxygen to sustain the fish. As a result the fishing really dropped off as the population suffered.
By all indications from this year’s opening day, the fishing has rebounded nicely. According to reports from the High Sierra Flycasters fly fishing club, the lake saw its largest opening day crowd ever. The 118 anglers that fished the lake reported it as their best angling in years, with 771 fish caught by 77 fly fishermen, and 490 fish by the 41 lure fishermen present on Friday. On Saturday, 44 fly fishermen tallied 137 fish while the 44 lure fishermen caught 134.
The hot fly was a size No. 14 or No. 16 bead head prince nymph. Other flies worked well during the opener, but this was certainly the fly that had the most success. Prince nymphs have been a productive pattern no matter what region you fish.
Heenan is a small lake where no gas motors are allowed. Electric motors are okay, but most use small hand launch boats with oars or kick around in float tube. The lake is only 129 acres in size so getting around without a motor is no trouble.
Most anglers use No. 4 to No. 6 weight rods while fly fishing, and floating or slow sinking lines such as an intermediate sink. There are times when a faster sinking line such as a type II sinking line can be valuable. Lure fishermen use a variety of lures, but a real standby is the gold Kastmaster or a similar lure. The hot lure in the eastern Sierras, the Thomas Buoyant, would also be a good choice.
This lake typically gets better as the weather gets uglier. This fall has been unusually warm, but the cooler nights in recent times should improve fishing through the end of October. So if you have not tried this lake yet, it should still have some of its best days ahead.
Most lakes are starting to fish very well in our region. Lakes to the north of us such as Eagle, Frenchman and Davis should prove to be exceptional this year.
With only three weekends remaining at Heenan and the fishing improving you may want to get out there and try for a trophy Lahontan Cutthroat trout. Trout in the two- to four-pound range are pretty common, with much larger trout very possible.
If you are looking for a good short trip for some catch and release action, try Heenan Lake. The drive this time of year is worth a trip, by itself, because of the fall colors.
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