Freshwater Fishing the Mammoth Lakes Area – Convict Lake Creek and Vicinity

Convict Lake with Upper Convict Creek winding up the canyon in the background. The creek is marked by aspen trees in fall colors

By now you probably are aware that I prefer stream fishing, and that I don’t mind a good hike to score wild trout. Upper Convict Lake Creek has a population of wild rainbows, brook trout, and browns that are often overlooked because most of the creek is brushy or runs downhill fast. The lower creek also holds good numbers of trout, but they’re not all wild because trout planted in the lake often head down river. The lower creek also has restrictions from late summer on because trout swim up out of Crowley Lake to spawn.  Both offer anglers good opportunities if you don’t mind working for your fish.

Upper Convict Lake Creek

The drive from the Mammoth Lake campground to the parking lot at the base of Convict Lake takes about 20 minutes. Pull off to the left near the lake’s outflow and  park near the heads.  Start your walk on the lakeshore trail past the boat ramp. The trail follows the lake to its far end, and begins at an elevation of  7,580 feet. Take the cutoff to the right that heads up the canyon. I like to follow the trail, which winds steeply along the base of the canyon, until I reach the creek crossing about 3½ miles from the lake. You can cut off earlier to fish the creek in a flat meadow-like area ¾ of a mile earlier, but it’s buggy. At the stream crossing, I usually fish up river in the small holes along this part of the stream. You can also continue on the trail to Mildred Lake. It’s at an elevation of 9,760 feet, 5 miles up the canyon from Convict Lake. From there you can fish down the creek or visit the slow water in the meadows further up. There are some small ponds along that upper stretch, but you have to be sneaky or you’ll spook the trout feeding there. The water is slow and clear and the fish there are skitterish. Dorothy Lake is another mile up the trail, but
you have to climb to 10,250 feet of elevation. That’s 6 miles upstream from Convict and a very strenuous hike to make in one day. All-in-all, I prefer the creek anywhere between the crossing and Mildred. The fish run up to 15 inches, and the cold water keeps their flesh hard and tasty. Be sure to pack your catch carefully so they don’t spoil during the hike

Lower Convict Lake Creek

To fish this part of the creek drive past the road to Convict and turn off at Benton Crossing as if you were going to travel to the Owens River.  You can park there and cross the highway to fish upstream for a short stretch upriver toward the lake between the highway and the out-of-bounds study area, but I prefer to cut off on the dirt road just past the old church and follow it down the creek towards Crowley. There are a number of areas to pull off and park, and this part of the stream is slower and quite scenic. I prefer to drive as far down the creek as possible and fish the areas there. These waters produce well early and late in the season, but can be stingy under heavy mid-season fishing pressure. The walk from the car to the creek is easy, and fishing along the creek isn’t strenuous. Bushes along the shores can limit access in some areas, but there are still many holes available as you travel up or down stream.

Convict Lake

I have done well shore fishing in the lake from the far end about where the stream inlets run into the lake. I still prefer the stream, but afternoon fishing and a cooler full of beer can make this option tempting. You can access this area easier if you continue driving along the lake after turning left. Park as close to the end of the road as possible and follow the trail along that side to the far end of the lake.

Mildred Lake

Good shore fishing almost anywhere for smaller trout. Not my thing, but fun for the kids.

Upper Convict Creek is one of my favorite hikes with flowers and excellent canyon views all along the way. It’s a tough trek, however, but if you take your time, and if you’re in the
physical shape to do it, it’s rewarding. Try it, and I think you’ll like it.

About Otto

Otto Gasser grew up mostly in southern California and obtained his Doctorate In Educational Psychology from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He was hired as a professor to teach in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, where he initiated a multilevel Scuba training curriculum on campus. Dr. Gasser spent 37 years at Cal Poly before recently retiring. During that time, he certified over 2,000 students in Scuba. He served as the University’s Diving Safety Officer and represented the campus on the California State College and Universities Diving Safety Committee. Off campus, Dr. Gasser spent ten years on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association, three of them as President. Over the years, he has volunteered time on a number of county Scuba training programs and has authored several articles about diver training. Otto is now an active recreational diver. In addition to the California coast, his more frequently visited dive locations include Hawaii’s Big Island, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands.
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