Pyramid Lake Legend

I met Craig Drummond in the strangest of ways.  Me and a buddy rescued him from the jaws of death at Pyramid lake in April of 2017.  He had tripped and fallen while moving his ladder in chest-deep water and his thick, buoyant neoprene waders and heavy, water-logged jacket had kept him pinned face-down in the heavy swell.  He told us later that he was blacking out and had “fought all he could” when we finally got to him.  We dragged him to shore and after some scary moments of coughing up water and heaving breaths to recover oxygen he was stable enough to strip down and get blankets on to reduce the chance for hypothermia.  In the end, he fully recovered.  It was a very sobering experience.

I learned later that he was an LA fire chief for 25 years and had saved hundreds of lives.  He had pulled people from burning buildings,  resuscitated babies, lived through both LA riots and had had been shot at twice.  But, after everything he had been through, he said the Pyramid Lake near-drowning was the closest he had ever felt to death.

After the incident, I was able to talk with him more and learned what an amazing life he has lead.  He has fished Pyramid Lake for 30 years.  During those 30 years, he has made 173 trips from Southern California averaging 6 days per trip.  It is 1016 miles round trip so that works out to be around 180K miles driven.  He has kept a detailed fishing log that documents every fish he has caught, water temps, etc.  During that time, he has landed an estimated 18,000 cutthroat and released all but a handful.  He has many fish over 15 pounds topped by a monster 21 pounder.

He has also been fishing on long range saltwater boats out of San Diego for over 30 years and las landed 34 yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds and 3 over 300 pounds.  That in it of itself is mind boggling!  Craig has also fished in Alaska for over 20 years targeting big Chinook and Coho with some giant halibut mixed in.  Tack on 37 consecutive years of hunting elk in Colorado, hunting deer, birds and pheasant, etc and you have one of the most amazing outdoor-centric lives I have ever known.

Craig’s dad was a logger and raised the family on the banks of the Feather River in the early 1940s.  Their tiny town of Clio, CA had one hand gas pump and a tiny store.   He caught his first fish on a hand cut willow pole and a grasshopper, a 16” brown trout at the age of 5.  He was immediately hooked and has been fishing hard ever since.  He was even known to bring his fishing pole to school and fish the local creek during recess!

He moved to San Pedro, CA during the 6th grade and his love for fishing moved from trout streams to salt water.  On most weekends, you could find him fishing the local boats and barges chasing sand bass, barracuda and white sea bass.  As he got older he worked on local ocean boats and began really taking salt water fishing more seriously.

He started on with the LA fire department in 1959 and quickly rose up the ranks.  It was some fellow firefighter buddies that first introduced him to Pyramid lake in 1987.  They headed up in January and fished Popcorn for 3 solid days without a strike.  On the last day, Craig tied on a red wooly bugger and hooked into a solid 26” buck.  That was it, he was hooked on Pyramid for life! 

A couple of neat Pyramid stories.  Before the pilot peak fish were introduced, a fish over 10 pounds was a beast... a fish over 14 was a monster!  On December 30th, 1990 Craig landed a 14 pound, 10 ounce Summit strain cutthroat.  The outside temp was 1 degree fahrenheit. and ice was forming on the guides every cast.  This was one of the few fish that Craig decided to keep so he could get it mounted by local taxidermist Phil Buckhart.  That fish was one of the largest cutthroat caught during the early 1990s.

Another quick story was a special day in November of 2016 when Craig landed a monster 19 pounder at 10AM.  His friend Bob was fishing with him but had to leave at 3 PM to head home.  You never know when lighting will strike and Craig had another giant hooked up that evening.  Craig is always the first on and last off and this day was no exception.  There wasn’t another ladder on the beach when he managed to net the beast.  The monster stretched the spring scale to a solid 21 and ¼ pounds.  Two fish over 19 pounds in one day!

I could go on and on with Craig’s amazing stories but will end with one final incredible tale.  Craig was fishing for giant yellowfin off Rocka Partida and hooked up at grey light.  The fish smoked 400 yards of 100 pound mono before it was attached to a backup and dumped in the water.  The fish then burned out 500 yards off of the backup rod and forced Craig and crew in the chase skiff.  From the giant tail beats they were sure it was a “super cow” yellowfin of well over 300 pounds.  After an hour or two he finally got deep color and they couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw a 12' hamerhead shark come up from the depths!

I wanted to write this as a tribute to a Pyramid lake fishing legend.  So, if you ever run into Craig on the water tell him hello and maybe he will tell you a fishing story or two!

Mark Knoch