Fishing Arrowhead and Emerald Lakes
Sometimes the best adventures are the easiest. While most anglers buzz right past Arrowhead Lake on their way up to Skelton or Barney or to cast around Duck Pass, they leave the small but fun to fish lake in their wake.
Just over a mile into the Duck Pass Trailhead, which departs from the Coldwater Campground, a fairly steep trail cuts off and descends to Arrowhead Lake. While the lake is visible from the main trail, it’s easy to overlook, which is what most folks do.
The 12-acre lake is surrounded by evergreens and feels like a hidden jewel. It’s still a backcountry lake in the High Sierra, it just isn’t that hard to get to. Arrowhead holds lots of aggressive brookies and is home to some rainbow trout as well.
Shaped like an arrowhead pointing northwest, the best fishing is along the inlets and outlet. A large rock outcropping on the southern end is a popular spot for lunch or to jump in for a swim. Skelton Lake is about a half-mile up the trail from the wide southern inlet.
For the more adventurous angler, Arrowhead is a fun first or last stop on the Duck Pass tripleheader—catching fish in Barney, Skelton and Arrowhead in one hike.
Arrowhead Lake offers angling in a beautiful, high alpine setting with a relatively easy hike of just under 2 miles round-trip.
Main Street/State Highway 203 in Mammoth Lakes leads to Lake Mary Road, which connects the town with the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Follow Lake Mary Road past Twin Lakes and take the second left, just before Lake Mary. The road follows the tree-lined shore of the lake to the Coldwater Campground. The parking lot is toward the rear and at the top of the campground.
There are a large variety of camping options for everything from tents to motorhomes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, including a large selection of sites at the Coldwater Campground. There are also lodge and cabin rental options available at Twin Lakes, Lake Mary and Lake Mamie. The area is very popular in the summer, especially during weekends, so camping spots or lodging should be reserved in advance. There are also abundant lodging and camping options in the town of Mammoth Lakes.
Small mountain lakes in the Eastern Sierra like Arrowhead are usually home to large populations of brook trout, which is technically a member of the char species. The fish are known for their awesome coloring and for being very aggressive. Their feeding season is pretty short at such high elevations. These wild populations are known for feasting on anything that looks like an insect, so dry flies and spinning lures usually work best.
General Season rules and regulations apply. Fishing season is open from the last Saturday in April through November 15.
Know Before You Go
Arrowhead Lake and the entire Mammoth Lakes Basin are at very high elevations, well over 8,000 feet. Always be prepared for a variety of weather in the mountains in any season with proper clothing layers, sunscreen, and plenty of hydration. The Mammoth Lakes Basin is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, which should never be approached, provoked or fed. If you do any backcountry exploring, always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.