Winter Fishing in Mono County

Trout-filled lakes, streams and rivers give Mono County the well-earned reputation as a freshwater angler's paradise. Even better news is that fishing is also available throughout the winter months!

From “Fishing Opener” (known locally as "Fishmas") on the last Saturday in April until November 15th, the regular fishing season regulations apply for all Mono County lakes and waterways. So while catch-and-release is always encouraged, anglers may keep the allowable limit, and a variety of bait and lures are permitted.

From November 16th to the last Friday in April, winter regulations apply. In a nutshell, winter fishing throughout Mono County is available on several streams and rivers (no lakes or reservoirs except Topaz Lake). In addition, fishing is catch-and-release only, and only barbless, artificial lures and flies are permitted.

A bit like English grammar, there are exceptions to the rules! Additional regulations may apply depending on the body of water and location. Always research the fishing regulations prior to heading out – -- or download the smart phone fishing regulations map:

Anyone over the age of 16 requires a current fishing license, available to purchase online at or at most California tackle shops. There are numerous options – from a 1-day, 2-day, or 10-day license to an annual license which is valid for one year from date of purchase. 


Fishing spots that are open in the winter months and typically accessible include these front country locations –

  • Topaz Lake: At the northernmost end of Mono County, the California-Nevada state line bisects this expansive reservoir which is home to rainbow and brown trout. Either a California or Nevada fishing license is required.
  • West Walker River, Little Walker River, Buckeye Creek, Virginia Creek, Green Creek, and Robinson Creek (excluding sections from US Forest Service boundary to Upper Twin Lake, and between Lower and Upper Twin Lakes) are open for winter fishing in northern Mono County. 
  • Lee Vining Creek (upstream from the Lee Vining conduit), Hot Creek (only artificial, barbless flies all year-round), McGee Creek (upstream from US Hwy 395), Upper Owens River (from Benton Crossing Bridge upstream to Big Springs) and Rock Creek are open in central/southern Mono County. Check road conditions and weather before your trip -- the road to Hot Creek is unplowed, for example, and may require walking (1-2 miles) due to snowpack.
  • You may have noticed that Saddlebag, Ellery and Tioga Lakes are listed as open for fishing year-round, but getting to these lakes in the winter months is not typically possible! They are located at the top of Tioga Pass near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, but Tioga Pass Road/SR 120 West from Lee Vining / US Hwy395 is closed every winter due to snow, usually from late November through the end of May.   



Remember that snow, ice and road conditions may make access to these streams and rivers challenging if not impossible on some winter days. Always research weather and road updates before venturing out. Be prepared with cold weather gear and waterproof footwear, layered clothing, gloves and hat, and bring food and water – a thermos of coffee is always a great idea. Mountain weather can change swiftly and with little warning – don’t be a fish and get caught!


Let the pros handle the details! Professional fishing guides are a surefire way to enjoy a successful fishing trip, especially for anglers new to the region or unfamiliar with winter fishing. A number of professional guide services are available year-round, including Sierra Drifters,, and Troutfitter in Mammoth Lakes/central and south Mono County. In June Lake, check in with Ernie’s Tackle & Ski Shop. In Bridgeport, Ken’s Sporting Goods is an excellent resource, and in Coleville, drop by Walker Fly & Tackle and Outdoor Guide Service at the Walker Coffee Company. For a complete list of regional fishing guides, please visit:


From spring through autumn, Mono County and California Department of Fish & Wildlife stock 21 bodies of water in Mono County with rainbow trout. There is no fish planting scheduled during winter months. 


When it comes to sustainable fishing, we're all in the same boat! Let's ensure that the lakes and rivers of California's Eastern Sierra are home to a thriving trout and fish population for generations to come. Please refresh your fishing etiquette knowledge and follow these top 6 best practices for catch-and-release:

1. Land your fish as carefully and as quickly as possible -- don't land it on the ground or rough surfaces where damage can be done to the fish’s skin and protective slime coating.

2. Avoid removing your catch from the water -- unhook and release the fish while it is still underwater.

3. Make sure your hands are wet and limit the amount you handle the fish -- don't use a rag and never touch the fish's eyes or gills.

4. The use of artificial barbless lures makes unhooking as easy and stress-free as possible for the fish.

5. Leave no trace - please! Fishing line and hooks left behind are a danger to birds, fish, wild animals, pets, kids, as well as other anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. Please collect and pack out fishing line and hooks -- many marinas and tackle shops offer recycling options.

6. Mind your "Mountain Manners" when fishing and recreating in the Eastern Sierra. Please take all trash out with you, including pet and human waste. Don't wade in sensitive waters, and follow all wildfire safety prevention regulations -- wildfires can happen in the winter months, too, especially in a low-snow year. Thank you!

For more info on winter and year-round fishing in Mono County, please visit or California Department of Fish & Wildlife at fishing – every day of the year!