There is a wealth of lakes spread out among the 100,000 acre of this pristine wilderness. The Department of Fish and Game estimates that 42 lakes in this basin have rainbows, 28 have brookies, 6 have goldens, 2 have rainbows and brookies and 1 has rainbows and brown trout.
Emigrant Wilderness, located south of Hwy. 108, the Sonora Pass, is about 30 miles out of the town of Sonora. Terrain varies from rolling hills to ridges and granite domes, with many lakes surrounded by stands of lodgepole pine.
There is a variety of trailheads the angler can use as departure points. Kibbie Ridge, Kennedy Meadows, Crabtree and Bell Meadow are the most frequented. The best troutin’ is in the more remote lakes, many located in the southwestern portion of the area.
Pingree, Black Hawk, Shallow Hyatt, Rosasco, Lost, Cow Meadow, Yellow Hammer, Big and Deer Lakes are just a few of the more productive waters. Native brown trout can be found in Summit, Lily and Horsemeadow Creeks.
Fly fishing will be overwhelmingly your best strategy on these alpine lakes. A few of the regionally popular patterns fished dry are the California Mosquito, Light Cahill, Black Gnat, Elk Hair Caddis and Joe’s Hopper.
Flies can range from #12 to #18 depending on the size of the indigenous trout. Natural baits including pine grubs, hellgrammites, ‘hoppers, crickets and nightcrawlets are super choices. Salmon eggs will also work to a limited degree.
Hikers with strong backs should also consider packing in a small inflatable boat. A #10 Dave Davis or Model-T Ford Fender with a ‘crawler behind it can produce astonishing results on these unpressured fish! Ultra-light Krocadiles, Rooster Tails, Mepps and Panther Martins can also be trolled or fan-casted from the bank on almost any of the Emigrant Wilderness Lakes.
word of caution is in order. You must arm yourself with a good topographical map and a compass to find some of these high country lakes. Many are not on marked trails and some rock scrambling may be necessary. Be sure to file a trip itinerary with the local ranges’s and obtain necessary permits before heading out into this remote wilderness.