Earning my stripes at Stone Lagoon

There is an unusual body of water here on the North Coast of California called Stone Lagoon. Stone Lagoon is fed by MacDonald creek and separated from the ocean by a narrow spit of sand that's about a mile long. In the winter when the lagoon fills up from rainfall via MacDonald creek and the tides are high, the sand spit breaks open and the lagoon drains. Coastal cutthroat and steelhead, as well as various salmon and other ocean fish swim through the channel and become trapped when the sand spit closes up.

I have lived here for about a year and have fished Stone Lagoon probably 5 times. I had never caught a fish, or even seen evidence for their presence any of those times. However, this is a notoriously difficult body of water to fish and I knew from the start that I would need to put in the time to see some success. It finally happened today.

I put my pontoon in off of 101 and was excited to see that I had the lagoon to myself. I rowed hard against the wind to the only cove in the lagoon, called Ryan's Cove. It is supposed to be a spot where cutthroat consistently gather. After about 2 hours of casting a stripping a black crystal bugger, I was starting to feel frustrated and smell skunk. Then suddenly, as I lifted the fly out of the water to cast again, the water next to my pontoon exploded. I looked down at the splash, the fish already back in the deep, and though "holy shit, I just got a strike". I cast again and got a solid grab right at the side of the boat, but the fish didn't hold on. I desperately cast for the next hour with nothing to show for it.

I paddled to the edge of the cove and began casting toward some underwater rocks. Suddenly I had a fish on! It went airborne about 50 feet out, and it was either a cutt or a small steelhead. It went on several spectacular runs, but I was beginning to wear it down. I almost had it to the boat when it shot away from the pontoon. My reel overspun, gave it some slack, and it was gone. My expletive laden outburst was probably heard in Eureka.

I fished for a bit longer with no luck, then decided one more cast and I would try rowing over to the mouth of the creek. shortly after my fly hit the water I felt a strong resistance, which I though was a submerged rock. I kept pressure on it, and right as I was about to paddle over and try to retrieve my snagged fly my line wiggled. FISH ON! I landed it quickly and finally, in my net, was an 18 inch Stone Lagoon cutthroat. Finally my persistence had paid off. This was genuinely the most beautiful fish I have ever caught.


Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Yowsa! Nice work! Very nice! that is a powerful looking cutthroat! Man, just look at that caudal peduncle! That fish looks like it pumps iron!