California’s Eastern Sierra

Convict Lake

Convict Lake with Boat

Convict Lake

You could travel the world over and you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful lake than Convict, especially one that is so easy to access. Just a couple paved miles from Highway 395, Convict Lake is a drive-to lake of the highest order. The scenery, the fishing and the hiking it offers are all world-class.

The oblong-shaped lake is filled with water as clear as glass, encircled by a three-mile long access trail and boxed in by the steep backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, highlighted by the 12,241’ Mount Morrison. Convict Lake was originally carved out by glaciers, and at up to 140’ deep in some places, it’s one of the deepest lakes in the region.

Convict Lake offers great trout fishing and hiking for folks wishing to access the high country. It has also starred in numerous TV commercials and print ads, but it’s most famous for how it got its name.

In the fall of 1871, a posse trapped a group of escaped convicts from Carson City, Nevada, at the lake, then known as Monte Diablo. A shootout ensued and two locals, Robert Morrison and Mono Jim, were killed. Most of the inmates were eventually caught and put to frontier justice. The large peaks above the lake were renamed after the fallen posse members and the lake itself became known as Convict.

In honor of the lake’s history, Convict Lake Resort holds two annual fishing derbies: the “Round Up at the Lake” in the spring and the “Ambush at the Lake” each fall.

Directions: Just south of Mammoth Lakes and west of the Mammoth Yosemite Airport off Highway 395. Convict Lake Road runs for roughly two miles to the lake.

Convict Lake with Boat
Convict Lake Campground

Convict Lake Camping

Convict Creek runs through the Convict Lake Campground and the lake itself is only a hundred yards upstream. Most sites are suitable for RVs, but full hookups are not available. The campground and marina are open from late April, usually the opening weekend of the general fishing season, until the end of October. Powerboats are limited to electric motors. The Restaurant at Convict Lake Resort and its rental cabins are open year-round. For more information go to www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.

Directions: Located on Convict Lake Road, roughly two miles west from Highway 395.

Convict Lake Campground
Fishing at Convict Lake

Fishing at Convict Lake

Thanks to its depth and ability to offer lots of cold, clean water, Convict Lake is known for producing large trout, with a few fish landed each season in the eight-pound range. Rainbow trout tend to get the largest, but Convict is also home to browns and brookies. 

At nearly 170 acres, it’s a great lake to fish by boat, canoe, kayak or float tube, but shore access is also solid as a trail follows along the entire shoreline. So even on busy days, it always seems like there’s always some room to fish at Convict if you’re willing to search for it.

Perhaps the best time to fish Convict Lake is in the spring or the fall, when the lake gets well stocked to host its two annual derbies. The Convict Lake Resort hosts the “Round Up at the Lake” each spring and offers the “Ambush at the Lake” in autumn.  For a small entrance fee, which goes towards helping to stock the lake, anglers have an opportunity to win all kinds of prizes, including gear, free boat rentals and stays at the resort. Entrants are also given a collectors pin, which are highly prized by those who love to cast in the Eastern Sierra.

Directions: Convict Lake is roughly two miles from Highway 395 and about 15 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes.

Fishing at Convict Lake