Photo of Cooney Lake, Mono County, CA

Cooney Lake Fishing

Virginia Lakes - Mono County

Photo of Cooney Lake

Cooney Lake

Cooney Lake is an interesting mountain lake set back up the canyon a short distance from Virginia Lakes. Plenty of nutrients help the rainbow and brook trout in the lake flourish, yet the lake is not heavily fished. Other lakes lower on the trail draw most anglers, leaving Cooney Lake for those who make the one-mile hike to its shores.

In My Creel

  • #16 gnat
  • #16 Adams
  • #16 Blue Olive
  • #16 Griffith's Gnat
  • Little Cleo
  • Panther Martin
  • Mepps

As usual, I wanted to be ready for whatever conditions I encountered, so I carried a variety of flies and lures and both spinning and fly fishing rods and reels. As soon as I reached the lake swarms of little black gnats gathered around my feet, so I started off with the #16 gnat and was rewarded immediately.

Making Your Way to Cooney Lake


To reach Cooney Lake, head for Virginia Lakes in the Eastern Sierra off Highway 395, between Bridgeport and Mono Lake. The Virginia Lakes road leaves 395 at the top of Conway Summit. A great 6-mile-long road carries you easily to Virginia Lakes. The road turns to gravel the last quarter mile before the trailhead parking lot. Restrooms and picnic tables are located there on the shore of the uppermost Virginia Lake.

Photo of  Virginia Lakes

Virginia Lakes

With such easy access, many anglers can't resist dropping their lines into one of the lower Virginia Lakes. They are planted with thousands of rainbow trout every year and are also home to brown trout. Within easy walking distance are Red Lake and Blue Lake, both good fishing destinations. Trumbull Lake gets a lot of attention too since it is next to a campground.

Along the Trail

The trail to Cooney Lake leads away from the trailhead parking lot, winds through the trees, and soon passes along the shore of Blue Lake. Then the trail climbs for a short distance, passing an old log mining cabin before making a final push up to Cooney Lake. The total elevation gain is only 400 feet, but hiking at around 10,000 feet, I took plenty of rest stops along the way.

Fishing at the 10,200-foot high lake was best at the northwestern corner where the inlet stream spills into the lake. The western and southern shores were productive too. It would be easy to carry a float tube up to this lake.

Just a short distance farther up the trail is a cluster of three small lakes known as Frog Lakes. You can fish them for brook trout.

Photo of Blue Lake

Blue Lake

Accommodations and Supplies

Cooney Lake has some good backpacking campsites along its southwestern side, but only a mile from the trailhead makes it an unlikely place to camp. Back at Virginia Lakes the nearest campground is Turnbull Creek Campground with 33 campsites. Little known Upper Virginia Creek Primitive Campground offers a place to set up a tent, and dispersed camping is allowed on West Virginia Creek.

Cabins are available from the friendly people at Virginia Lakes Resort. The next closest lodging can be found north at Bridgeport or south at Lee Vining. For more information about lodging in Mono County, see
Mono County - California's Eastern Sierra.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

If you are in need of fishing supplies, try one of these places:

Recommended Fishing Gear and Books for the Virginia Lakes Area

Photo of mining cabin

Old Mining Cabin

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