Blue Mesa Resevoir features salmon starting spawning run
GUNNISON – Kokanee salmon have begun their annual spawning run from Blue Mesa Reservoir up the Gunnison River.
Fishing enthusiasts hope the salmon will make a left turn at the East River and swim right into the raceways of the Roaring Judy Hatchery, where their eggs will be collected to produce millions more of this tasty landlocked cousin of the Pacific sockeye.
To protect the four-year-old spawners, all fishing is prohibited from the hatchery outlet downstream to the boundary of the state fish-rearing unit.
Anglers can fish other sections of the East and Gunnison Rivers but cannot keep any kokanee caught until Oct. 31.
Most of the salmon die after spawning. Snagging leftover fish is permitted in the Gunnison from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.
Terry Robinson, manager of the Roaring Judy Hatchery, said the run has barely begun. Most salmon are still stacked up in Blue Mesa and the few that have started moving upriver do not move every day.
Egg collection at the hatchery usually begins in the first week of October. They hatch in December and January and the fingerlings are stocked in April.
Last year’s drought kept the Gunnison River so low the kokanee could not complete their run.
Volunteers and the Department of Wildlife staff had to net 20,000 fish and truck them to the hatchery.
This year the river is higher, though still below normal, and Robinson hopes to collect 7 to 8 million eggs.
“Not all salmon come home perfectly,” he cautioned. “Some of them go up the Taylor River.
“Others bypass the hatchery completely and keep going up the East River to Crested Butte. Then we have to go looking for them in other drainages.”
Collecting the eggs is an arduous process. Hatchery workers wearing waders have to stand in very cold water for up to six hours a day checking every fish that enters the raceways.
Only about one-in-10 is a “good” female ready to spawn; the rest are males or females that aren’t ready. On a busy day, the crew may screen 20,000 fish to strip the spawn of 2,000.
Wolford Reservoir and Muddy Creek offer some of the best trout and salmon fishing in Colorado because the water flushed out of the base of the dam is really cold for summer (52 degrees) causing fish in both the reservoir and tailwater to actively feed.
Trout in the reservoir include browns, rainbows, goldens and splake, a cross between a brook trout and lake trout or mackinaw.
They are being caught on Power Bait (orange or red-white-and-blue), fished very deep, and Blue Fox spinners in copper or chartreuse colors.
Dan Murphy at The Fishing Hole in Kremmling says
copper-colored lures are particularly good because they resemble crayfish, the principal fish food in Wolford.
Check out page A20 for local fishing reports.
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