The time is now to fish for trout at Blue Mesa
Now through late May is the best time to catch big lake trout in Blue Mesa Reservoir. And the Colorado Division of Wildlife would like to see anglers bag more of the big fish, also known as mackinaw, to help maintain a delicate ecological balance with other species in the reservoir.Kokanee salmon are the main concern. Blue Mesa is the best producer of kokanee in the state because it grows large quantities of daphnnia, a zooplankton that is the preferred food of salmon. After three to five years of life in the reservoir, the kokanee swim 20 miles up the Gunnison and East Rivers to the Roaring Judy Hatchery, where their eggs are gathered and hatched to replenish salmon populations in Blue Mesa and other reservoirs. Unfortunately, kokanee are also the preferred food of lake trout, last stocked in Blue Mesa in 1992 but now so numerous that biologists fear they have caused a decline in salmon numbers. Fewer salmon are now making their spawning run up to the Roaring Judy than before. “We do not have enough kokanee this year to meet our needs,” said Dan Brauch, the DOW’s aquatic biologist in Gunnison. “We are about 3 million fish short. We know that there is significant predation of kokanee by lake trout. We also know that lake trout are reproducing on their own. So we need to maintain the pressure on lake trout.”Most of the lakers in Blue Mesa are between 20 and 35 inches in size. But there are some real hogs. The state record mackinaw, caught there in 2003 by Larry Cornell, weighed nearly 47 pounds and measured 42.6 inches.Big macks only inhabit shallow water – 20 to 50 feet deep – for a month or so after ice-out and again in the fall. By late May, as the reservoir warms, they move deeper and spend most of the summer below 100 feet where anglers can only get at them with downriggers or lead core line. So now is the time to catch the big predators, hungry after their winter dormancy and cruising the shorelines in search of food. They are susceptible to tube jigs tipped with sucker meat, whole suckers or large, flashy lures such as Kastmasters or Rapalas. Many anglers coat their lures with Nitro Grease. Andy Cochran, manager of the fishing department at Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods in Gunnison, is an expert on lake trout fishing and can give good advice on what bait or lure is working best.For the complete, statewide fishing report, visit http://wildlife.state.co.us/downfish/index.asp
Clear Lake — Power Bait and Nitro Bait work best here. Ice is melting fast and should be completely off any day now. This lake harbors large numbers of smaller rainbow and brook trout. South Platte River (Waterton Canyon) — Dry fly fishermen are doing well far up the canyon with Blue Wing Olives, Adams, and Pale Morning Duns. Two and even three-fly rigs also work with nymph droppers such as Copper Johns, Beadhead Pheasant Tails and San Juan Worms. NorthwestBlue River (below Green Mountain Reservoir) — Flows below Green Mountain Reservoir are low and muddy, but should clear quickly if it stops raining. Fishing has been excellent all the way from the tailwater to the confluence with the Colorado River. Midges are still hatching in profusion with Blue Wing Olives on cloudy days. Use a #18 BWO, #20 Griffith’s Gnat, #20 Zebra Midge, #18 Copper John and red or wine-colored San Juan Worms when the water is discolored. The tailwater is subject to periodic security closures. There are three other public accesses on BLM land downriver to the confluence with the Colorado, but they are narrow and anglers are warned to stay off adjoining private property. For current conditions call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.) — The tailwater below Dillon Reservoir continues to fish well with a clear, consistent flow of 50 cfs. Blue Wing Olives have started to make their first appearance with hatches that have been brief and unpredictable but productive. On top use #24-26 Brook’s Baetis, Blue Winged Olives, Gulper Specials and Griffith’s Gnats. Sub-surface, small midge nymphs and sparsely tied Baetis are the main producers. There have been good reports of big fish in the river north of Silverthorne, especially near the inlet to Green Mountain Reservoir. Egg patterns followed by small stonefly patterns work best there. Colorado River (below Parshall) — Flow is 410 cfs at Kremmling. Water is muddy and will take several days to clear after a mix of rain and snow in the high country. When it clears use Blue Wing Olives, RS-2s and WD-40s. Hatches are more prolific from Pump House to Radium. An eagerly awaited event on these waters is the Salmonfly hatch, which usually occurs in late May. For current conditions call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle) — Flow is 3,200 cfs in Glenwood Springs, discolored by runoff and unfishable. Expect it to stay this way for a few weeks. Call the Taylor Creek Flyshop at 970-927-4374 for current conditions. Colorado River (near Granby) — No real change from last week. Flow is 422 cfs, clear in the mornings, discolored by afternoon. Trout fishing remains good; anglers do best with tan and cream Caddis, gray beadhead RS-2s and egg patterns. Different colored San Juan worms also work, especially when water is discolored. In the immediate Granby area and downstream to the bridge at the west end of Byers Canyon, bait fishing is also permitted and two fish may be kept. The upper Colorado river, below Shadow Mountain dam, is almost always clear. The flow rate varies depending on the amount of water let out of Shadow Mountain Dam, which changes according to runoff and how much water is pumped from Granby Reservoir. Fryingpan River — The river is clear, running at 82 cfs below Reudi Reservoir and fishing very well. In the tailwater, good hatches of midges are coming off daily while high concentrations of Blue Wing Olives are being seen on the middle and lower river. The best dry fly fishing is from noon to 3 p.m. Dry fly fishermen must use 7x fluorocarbon tippets if they want to be successful. Hot patterns include Bill’s Adult Midge, Sprout Midge, BWO No Hackle, BWO CDC Comparadun, Befus Para Emerger BWO, Poxyback Baetis, Pheasant Tail, BTS Baetis, CDC BWO Loopwing, Barr Emerger BWO, RS-2, Johnny Flash and WD-50 in sizes 20-24. Call the Taylor Creek Flyshop at 970-927-4374 for current conditions. Grand Lake — Lake still has some ice but there is a lot more open water. Brown trout have been running in and around the channel between Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, hitting on Rapalas and Kastmasters. Fishing for rainbow trout also is fair to good there with all the usual baits, but mackinaw have been less cooperative.
Green Mountain Reservoir — Fishing has been good at the Blue River inlet, but slow on the reservoir itself. There is now open water up to McDonald Flats and the remaining ice is melting fast. Anglers should be extremely cautious before venturing out. Rifle Gap Reservoir — Fishing has been excellent with trout hitting on Rapalas, small spinners, worms, salmon eggs and Power Bait. Water temperature is 52 degrees and lake level is 22 feet below full pool. The hottest fishing is at the east inlet. The lake also harbors sizeable perch (14-inchers are not uncommon), smallmouth bass, pike and walleyes. The bag and possession limit for smallmouths is two fish 15 inches or larger and fish caught between May 1 and June must be released. The bag and possession limit for walleyes is three fish, only one of which may be longer than 18 inches. Rio Blanco Lake — This lake harbors largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, crappie, crappie, perch, bluegills and channel catfish. Pike fishing should be good this summer as northerns removed from the Yampa River will be planted here beginning at the end of May. Bass of up to 4 pound can be caught along the dike. For current conditions, call Wyatt’s Sporting Goods in Meeker at (970) 878-4428. Roaring Fork River — The Fork is fishing very well from Aspen down to Carbondale, discolored by the now-not-so-Crystal River below Carbondale. Flows are 188 cfs in Aspen, 478 cfs in Basalt and 1,200 cfs in Glenwood Springs. Good BWO hatches are coming off daily from Basalt to Carbondale and the first wave of caddis have started near Carbondale. Hot flies: Bill’s Adult Midge, Sprout Midge, CDC Midge Adult, BWO Sparkledun, Parachute BWO, Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Red Copper Johns, Electric Caddis, Graphic Caddis, Stimulators, Peacock Caddis, Sparklwing RS-2s, Flashtail Hot Eggs and WD-50s. All BWO and Midge patterns should be #20-24; Caddis and attractor patterns #14-18. Call the Taylor Creek Flyshop at 970-927-4374 for current conditions. White River — Flows are rising, now 839 cfs at Buford and 847 cfs at Meeker. Although runoff is beginning to discolor the water anglers are still enjoying good fishing with streamers, Woolly Buggers and beadhead nymphs. Best fishing is from Lake Avery downriver to Meeker. For current conditions, call Wyatt’s Sporting Goods in Meeker at (970) 878-4428. Williams Fork Reservoir — Ice is nearly all off. Lake trout have been the primary catch recently, but anglers are starting to catch pike in shallow water around the inlet where northerns are chasing spawning rainbows. Use Rapalas and whole suckers for both pike and lakers. Rainbow and brown trout are also feeding actively and can be caught on smaller Rapalas, spinners and Power Bait or night crawlers. For current conditions call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Williams Fork River — Flows are low but muddied by rain. Releases from Williams Fork Reservoir are minimal and fishing will return to excellent as soon as the water clears. Main hatches remain Blue Wing Olives and midges. Use BWOs, Blue Duns, Zebra Midges, Serendipity nymphs and egg patterns. For current conditions call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Yampa River (Stagecoach through Steamboat) — Fishing remains very good in the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir with regular midge and Blue Wing Olive hatches. Downriver in Steamboat Springs, feeder creeks have discolored the water, now flowing at 793 cfs. Soon the river will be blown out by runoff. Use gray, olive and red midge imitations in the tailwater; little black stoneflies and BWOs downtown. Several river sections are restricted to flies and lures only and/or catch-and-release. SoutheastArkansas River #3 (Through Pueblo) — This stretch of river is stocked 12 months a year and offers good trout fishing except when there are extremely low or no outflows from Pueblo Dam. The river below the dam has had a lot of habitat improvement from the tailwater to downtown Pueblo, which should make fishing even better this year.
Arkansas River (Buena Vista to Salida) — Blue Wing Olive hatches have resumed strongly with the return of wet, cloudy weather. BWOs have been seen as far upriver as Granite. Flows Monday were 212 cfs at Granite, 244 cfs at Salida, 289 cfs at Nathrop. On top use a #18 BWO; subsurface, #18 Pheasant Tail, olive Flashback Pheasant Tail, olive Micro Mayfly or WD-40. For emergers, an olive Surface Emerger, RS-2 or Barr’s Emerger. On top, a Parachute Adams, Parachute Gulper Special or Brook’s Sprout Baetis. For current conditions call the Arkansas River Fly Shop at (719) 539-3474. Arkansas River (Leadville to Buena Vista) — Blue Wing Olive hatches have been reported as far upstream as Granite. Fish are moving into spring feeding stations and can be taken on Mayfly and Stonefly nymph patterns as well as BWO dries during cloudy day hatches. For current conditions call the Arkansas River Fly Shop at (719) 539-3474. Arkansas River (Salida to Canon City) — Cooler, cloudy weather with light rain and snow put the caddis hatch on hold upriver from Howard. Current forecasts call for more rain in the week ahead so the caddis hatch will probably stall, while Blue Wing Olive will resume hatching river-wide. The lower canyon, from Texas Creek to Parkdale, has seen warmer temperatures with strong caddis hatches, and fish have been feeding actively on adults. Use #16 Black Foam Caddis. Above Texas Creek to Howard, the hatch has been more sporadic. Fish there are not keyed in on adults but hitting pupae. From Howard on up #18 BWOs are still the ticket. For current conditions call the Arkansas River Fly Shop at (719) 539-3474. Clear Creek Reservoir — Clear creek is about half open now and ice should be all off by the first of May. Fishing after ice-out is usually excellent; cast night crawlers or spoons and spinners right near the edge of the melting ice. Elevenmile Reservoir — The reservoir has opened to boating, but a small amount of ice remains and boaters are advised to use caution. Not all hazards are marked yet. The lake is full and boat ramps at Witcher’s Cove and the North Shore are usable. Shoreline success so far is good at North Shore, Suckers Cove and Howbert Point. Baits work best on rainbows in early spring; use night crawlers, marshmallows or Power Bait (orange, chartreuse or green). Kokanee fishing should improve as the weather warms. Pike fishing is usually fair in summer, becoming good in September and October. There is no limit on pike and anglers are encouraged to catch all they can to help the trout fishery. South Platte River (btwn Spinney and Elevenmile) — Fishing remains very good with plenty of spawning rainbows and cutthroats feeding on midges and Blue Wing Olives. Trout are hitting on #20-22 Blue Wing Olives, #22 Griffith’s Gnats, Barr’s Wet Emergers, Flashback Pheasant Tails, #18 Apricot Egg patterns and #20 Red Midge Larva. Late-morning until just past noon is the best fishing time. The South Platte is running at about 55 cfs above Elevenmile Reservoir. Spinney Mountain Reservoir — Spinney opened for fishing April 20 and anglers have been experiencing fair to good success on rainbows and small pike depending on the winds. A mixture of flies saw success on opening day including RS-2s, Griffith’s Gnats, Flashback Pheasant Tails, Brassies, egg patterns and Scuds. Spinney was drawn down to 46 percent of capacity over the winter; the lake level is low and only hand-carried boats are allowed at this time. Hopefully, inflow from the South Platte River and Homestake Canal will raise the water level to the point where boat ramps will again be usable. The limit on trout is one fish 20 inches or longer. SouthwestGunnison River (below Crystal Dam) — The East Portal is open and fishing is very good, despite some discoloration caused by runoff from Cimarron Creek. Flow Monday was 1,590 cfs and water temperature 42 degrees. Effective flies include #16 Adams dry, baetis imitations, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, WD-40s, Midges, Scuds, San Juan Worms, Woolly Buggers and eggs. Call the Cimarron Creek fly shop at 970-249-0408 for the latest conditions. Gunnison River (through the canyon) — Flow is 1,440 cfs and clear all the way to Chukar Trail. Fishing has been very good with the lower flow. Mayflies and BWOs are still the primary hatches. Best flies to use are emergers and nymph patterns, including Woolly Buggers and beadheads, and #14-16 Adams dries. Downstream from the confluence with the North Fork, the river is blown out by runoff. The Gunnison River Pleasure Park is offering ferry service to help fishermen access the upper Gunnison. Call 970-872-2525 for current conditions. No motorized craft are allowed above the confluence with the North Fork. Other restrictions: Gold Medal Water, catch-and-release, flies and lures only. No rainbows may be kept and the bag limit on brown trout is one over 16 inches and three under 12 inches.
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