CDOW weekly fishing report — June 14, 2011

For a certain segment of Colorado anglers, mid June means the start of the gator-hunting season, or at least a time for some big-game fishing.

Northern pike, toothy top-of-the-line predators anywhere, have finished spawning in most of the mid-elevation lakes where they are found.  They’re hungry.  They’re prowling the shallows in search of a mouthful, and they provide fishermen with a good opportunity to bring in larger-than-average fish that some have dubbed gators, both for their lantern-jawed appearance and voracious appetite.

Though their appearance and feeding habits have inspired volumes of folklore over the years – some have called northern pike water wolves; others claim they have an evil eye – one thing appears certain: they will eat almost anything smaller than they are.  Other fish, crayfish, immature aquatic insects, terrestrial bugs that have blown onto the water, mice and possibly even ducklings might be on the menu.

For fishermen, that means northern can be taken on a wide variety of lures, artificial flies and baits, where permitted.  The most effective usually have some type of motion that makes them appear alive.

Spin-fishermen tend to have success with relatively large lures. The gamut of Dardevle-type spoons, Rapala- like crank baits, jerk baits and soft plastics all have taken their share of pike.  Various spinner baits and buzz baits that send out vibrations can be especially effective in weedy areas of a lake where pike may be lurking in ambush.  Top-water lures also might produce a spectacular, splashy strike from a pike. With the prospect of large, strong fish, an appropriately heavy line is recommended, and some fishermen use a wire leader to reduce the chances of a cutting the line on a pike’s razor-like teeth.

Fly-rod fishermen usually do best with large streamer flies such as Bunnies, Clouser Minnows, Zonkers, Woolly Buggers and Lefty’s Deceivers.  Surface poppers or large hopper patterns also can be of interest to the pike.

Many fishermen especially enjoy sight fishing for northerns.  With a good pair of polarized sun glasses, pike may be evident in shallow water, either cruising or lurking near the weed patches.  Either way, they’re likely to be skittish, but when the presentation is proper the fight is on. The water may boil with the characteristic surface roll of a pike, followed by a series of powerful, long runs.

Hungry pike have a dedicated following among fishermen, but they are a challenge to fisheries managers. Predatory northerns can take a heavy toll on other game fish including trout, and they have become established in waters where they are considered out of place.  To protect such fisheries, no daily bag or possession limits apply to pike anywhere in Colorado. 

Anglers are encouraged to keep all the pike they catch, and whether filleted, baked whole or cut into steaks and grilled, northern offer some very good table fare.  Pike have a row of Y-shaped bones just above the rib line. It can be removed with a fillet knife before cooking, or the bones can be picked out afterward. 

The prime time for pike fishing is just beginning and anglers have many options. Elevenmile and Spinney Mountain reservoirs are good choices for Front Range fishermen. Tarryall and Skaguay reservoirs also are possibilities. The northwest quadrant has Stagecoach, Williams Fork rand Rifle Gap reservoirs, among others.  In the southwest, Vallecito and Taylor reservoirs might be the best bets for large pike, and northerns also are found in Crawford and Navajo reservoirs. Sanchez Reservoir in the San Luis Valley is another favorite.

Northerns will remain active through the summer and well into the fall, but some of the best gator hunting of the year begins in June.

Northwest

Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.)—Flows from Dillon Dam have come down to about 900 cubic feet per second, still high and above the long-term average for the date. Though wading is more difficult, fishing still can be fairly good. Trout are dispersed and feeding in the slower water next to the main currents. Somewhat larger fly patterns are in order. Try Flashback Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, San Juan worms and streamer patterns.

Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle)—The runoff season is under way. The Colorado River currently is unfishable due to high and muddy water. For the best fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley, head up the Frying Pan River. Good numbers of Baetis are showing up and have been making for some great fishing on the Pan.

Colorado River (near Granby)—Recent flows below Windy Gap and below Parshall were 2,950 cfs and 4,273 cfs, respectively - spring runoff conditions that are still increasing. Fishing is mostly on hold until flow rates drop. Under regular conditions, Copper Johns, RS-2s, Prince Nymphs, chartreuse Woolly Buggers, San Juan worms and egg patterns are commonly used. In the immediate Granby area and downstream to the bridge at the lower end of Byers Canyon, bait fishing is permitted and two fish may be kept. From the east side of the bridge abutments (the west end of Byers Canyon) down to Troublesome Creek, including the Williams Fork River from the reservoir, catch-and-release rules apply and fishing is by artificial flies and lures only.

Cowdrey Lake—Fishing mostly for recently stocked trout has been fairly good. Bait fishermen have enjoyed good results on salmon eggs, marshmallows and PowerBait. Spin-bubble fishermen have been doing OK with various wet-fly patterns.

Crystal River—The Crystal is blown out with runoff. The best fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley has been on the Frying Pan River. Good numbers of Baetis (blue-winged olives) have been hatching on the Frying Pan, which has made for great fishing.

Delaney Buttes Reservoirs—The Chironomidae hatch still is going strong, and some Callibaetis mayflies and damselflies have appeared. Fish are actively feeding and many are large. Suspending a pair of Chironomidae nymphs in 8-12 feet of water has been the most productive approach. Early morning to midafternoon has been the best time. Streamer flies have been effective in the evening. Fishing on all three lakes is by artificial flies and lures only. The bag and possession limit for trout is two and size restrictions apply.

Eagle River—The runoff is under way.

Elkhead Reservoir—Fishing has been slow as runoff increases. It will take a few weeks to start to clear and warm up a little. The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program has announced that smallmouth bass will no longer be moved to Elkhead from the Yampa River during endangered fish work. Smallmouth bass already in the lake are unaffected by the change. The lake has smallmouth bass, crappie, northern pike, catfish and trout. All species will fish extremely well once the runoff season ends. Any fish being taken from the lake must be dead prior to leaving. Please help us ensure this fishery’s future. If you are not going to eat it, don’t take it.

Frying Pan River—Flows on the Frying Pan have bumped up to 432 cfs and were expected to be around 500 by Monday night. Good numbers of Mysis shrimp have been coming out of Ruedi Reservoir and trout have been feeding heavily on them within the first 1/4 mile below the dam. Numbers of Baetis (blue-winged-olives)have been out. Fish are keyed into them throughout the river, producing great dry fly fishing on overcast days between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The Frying Pan is one, if not the only, river fishing very well in the state right now.

Granby Reservoir—The shallow-water bite has remained good. A lot of water is still being let out. However, the water level in the reservoir is rising rapidly. The gates of Shadow Mountain Dam are allowing much more water through, increasing fish activity and catch rates. Fly fishing is great if you can fish fast water. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms and sucker meat are viable baits. Fish Creek spinners, Matzuos, Rapalas, Kastmasters, Tasmanian Devils, etc., are good lures. Trolling worm rigs and lures, jigging, bottom fishing(crappie rigs work well), spin-casting and fly fishing are good ways to catch fish. Slip bobber rigs also work well.

Grand Lake—The weather is cooperating with the fair-weather fishermen; fish catching remains better than usual. The fast-flowing streams (from melting snow) coming into the lake increase fish activity. Lures, night crawlers, meal and wax worms are working. Jigging with sucker meat is common and productive. The lake is more than 270 feet deep and can be difficult to learn, but also very rewarding. The water level remains constant. It has very large lake trout, nice-sized rainbows, browns and kokanee salmon. Trolling lures and worm rigs, bottom fishing the shallow areas and slip-bobber rigs all are used to catch fish. The mouth of the channel, the public boat dock area, and the West Portal are prime spots.

Green Mountain Reservoir—The lake is down about 40 feet but coming up about a foot a day. Fishing from the shore has been good using night crawlers or sucker meat. Folks are catching lake trout and rainbows.

Harvey Gap Reservoir—Windy conditions have made the lake very dirty. Sand and debris have caused fishing to slow. Boaters in deeper water are doing well for trout, perch and crappie. Fishing has been fair for rainbow trout along the dam. Fishermen have been having some success for northern pike in the shallows of the north end. Fishing has been fair for yellow perch. Lots of smaller perch are being caught all around the lake, but mostly near the boat ramp. Quite a few late-stocked trout from last fall overwintered at Harvey and are making for good fishing opportunity.

Highline Lake—Lots of trout were stocked into Highline and Mack Mesa lakes last spring. Fishing for them at both lakes remains fairly good on the standard baits and a variety of small lures. With warming water temperature, bass fishing at Highline has been improving. Parks staff is reminding anglers that if they catch a northern pike at either lake to please remove it from the water and notify the park staff.

Lake Avery—With lots of snow and ice remaining in the upper White River basin, Lake Avery currently is about the only fishing possibility in the region. Fishermen have been doing OK on orange Power Bait and worms from the bank and trolling gold-finish spinners.

Lake John—Trolling has been the most effective technique in recent days. Finding the proper depth - 12-15 feet - has been the key. Black-and-white Dardevles, Thomas Buoyants, Cyclones, deep-diving Rapalas, Needlefish and even larger streamer flies have been taking trout up to 18 inches. Shoreline fishing also has been decent. Fly fishermen getting away from the shore reported some good results with sink-tip or fully sinking lines. Though the lake is to be slowly lowered for a reclamation project in August, the water level remains good for fishing and boating.

Pearl Lake—No recent report.

Rifle Gap Reservoir—The lake is still at high water. Tons of water still flowing in Rifle Creek. Inlets are muddy, therefore fishing is poor. High water has kept the east and west ends shallow and in the weeds. Bass should be picking up when the sediment settles to the bottom. Fishing remains fair to good for trout and yellow perch all over the lake. Northern pike fishing has been fair to good near the inlet and in shallow areas. Walleye are still hanging out near the south island and around the boat ramp.

Roaring Fork River—The runoff season is under way. The Roaring Fork is currently unfishable due to high and muddy water. For the best fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley, head up the Frying Pan River. Good numbers of Baetis are showing up and have been making for some great fishing on the Pan.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir—The weather was very good this weekend and fishing was productive. Water movement from the way-above-average snowmelt has extended this great time of year to fish. Fishing the pump canal and the area around the mouth of the canal can be highly rewarding using flies, slip-bobber rigs, lures and night crawlers on the bottom. Kokanee, rainbows, browns and sometimes lake trout can be caught. Small jigs tipped with wax worms, mealworms, PowerBait or eggs are commonly used. Trolling, bottom fishing, spin-casting and fly fishing are good methods to use. Fishing is also good in the spillway below the dam where all available species of fish can be caught. The Pine Beach area and the channel between this reservoir and Grand Lake can be very productive, as well.

Stagecoach Reservoir—The reservoir is open to boating and a pre-inspection for ANS is required prior to launching. The marina ramp is open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the Morrison Cove ramp will be open Friday-Sunday, 8 a.m.to 8 p.m., throughout the season as staffing allows. Trout have been hitting on flies, lures, PowerBait and worms. With water temperatures in the middle 50s, pike activity has been picking up. Tailwaters fishing is good using eggs and San Juan worms above sizes 18-24, olive RS2s, WD40s and Barr’s Emergers. The reservoir is spilling over the dam and the tailwaters flow is above 400 cfs. The redds are down and fenced so please avoid these areas.

Steamboat Lake—The ice is gone but the water is high, turbid and cold. A handful of trout have been taken by trolling gold spoons and on pink PowerBait, but the overall fishing has been slow. The lake is open to boating. Inspection for aquatic nuisance species is mandatory.

Trappers Lake—At last report the lake still had ice. The road had been plowed to the lodge, but some deep snow drifts remained in the vicinity.

Vega Reservoir—The water level continues to rise about one foot a day. The south road is open, allowing access to fishing spots adjacent to pull-off areas. The Gravel Pits and Plateau Creek areas also are open. Two boat ramps are available. Fishing has been good, with many types of lures and baits producing trout. Larger trout have been cruising close to shore. Boaters have been bringing in somewhat smaller fish.

Williams Fork Reservoir—Rainbow and brown trout, lake trout, northern pike and kokanee are available. Trolling, jigging, fly fishing, bait and lures can catch fish. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms, sucker meat, PowerBait, eggs and many lures and flies are used. Only the east boat ramp is open. Inspections are mandatory for all trailered boats and begin at 6:00 a.m. The ramp is closed 1/2 hour after sunset. Permanent boat storage is prohibited. Anglers go after the pike as the water warms up; some are being caught, but it is not prime time yet. Camping is available. No reservations are accepted.

Willow Creek Reservoir—The reservoir is very low but starting to fill. Water is being let out as much as possible while the spillway is strengthened and repaired. Some bank areas have dried out and allow fishing access. Under regular conditions, rainbows, browns and kokanee salmon are waiting for fishermen to try their luck. It is a beautiful area with a nice campground, easy access and less fishing pressure than other area bodies of water. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms, PowerBait, eggs, lures and flies are used to get the fish to bite.

Yampa River (Hayden through Craig)—The river is up and running at high volumes. Currently it is not fishing very well. For a chance at a good-sized pike, try the ponds at the Yampa River State Park campground. They are being stocked regularly and will produce some good fish. Anything big should attract the pike. All Pike caught in the ponds must be killed prior to leaving the site or returned to the pond. Be very cautious around the river; it is deep and fast at the present time. The Hayden pump station is closed to downstream access due to bridge clearance. Severe flooding is occurring west of Craig with extreme volumes and debris all along the river corridor.

Yampa River (Stagecoach through Steamboat)—The Yampa remains high and off-color, a trend expected to continue into the near future. The only fishable water is the tailwater below Stagecoach Dam, which can become crowded.

Southwest

Beaver Creek Reservoir—The water level is 20 feet below the high-water mark. It will be maintained at or below that level for the entire summer. Currently, the water level is right at the bottom of the boat ramp. Anglers are advised to be cautious on the steep-sided slopes. Anglers have reported fair to good fishing for kokanee and brown trout up to 14 inches.

Big Meadows Reservoir—Anglers have reported fair to good fishing from boats and from the shore. Fish are ranging in size from 10 to 15 inches.

Blue Mesa Reservoir—The lake is coming up fast, about 2 feet per day. Iola Basin is very muddy with lots of debris. Salmon fishing remains good with limits being caught daily in Cebolla and Sapinero basins from the surface down to 50 feet. Browns, lake trout and rainbows are being caught all over the lake trolling typical salmon gear or Rapala-type lures from 10 to 60 feet.

Crawford Reservoir—Fishing from boats and the shore has been fairly good. Fishermen have been catching some large pike, as well as perch, crappie, trout and catfish.

East River—With flows at Almont around 2,300 cfs and rising, the runoff is under way.

Groundhog Reservoir—Fishing for trout running 15-20 inches has been good in recent days. Fish have been taking PowerBait, Nitro Dough and night crawlers, and starting to hit lures such as Thomas Buoyants, Dardevles and small Flatfish.

Gunnison River (through the canyon)—On June 6, the Bureau of Reclamation peaked the river at 7,330 cfs. On June 7 and 8 they started bringing the river down incrementally to June 13, where it will stabilize at 3,100 cfs. Reports coming off the river at the Gunnison River Pleasure Park are that fishing has been good even though visibility is two feet with brown/green water at Chukar Trail. Gunnison River Expeditions launched trips on the 13th and 14th, and will be coming off in a few days with a new report. The fish will be moving back into grass and willows and into feeding lanes in a day or so. The stonefly patterns have been working well, along with some Gunnison Omelet stonefly patterns, streamers, caddis and mayfly emergers. Gunnison River Expeditions: 970-874-8184. Gunnison River Pleasure Park: 970-872-2525

Gunnison River (Upper from Almont to Blue Mesa)—Recent flows have been around 3,850 cfs. The runoff is under way. Fishing is difficult to impossible.

Jackson Gulch Reservoir—Fishing has been good to very good for 10-12 inch rainbow trout (limit 4) and 4-6 inch yellow perch (no limit). Trollers are having success with in-line spinners and 1/4-ounce jigs. Shore anglers are catching trout on PowerBait, salmon eggs and night crawlers. Fly fishing should be good on calm evenings. Trout are especially active in the flowing water near the inlet. Yellow perch love those worms. Be sure to bring plenty of bait as there is no place to buy it nearby. Rainbow trout will be stocked monthly through the summer. Jackson Gulch requires an ANS inspection before launching boats. Regular inspection hours at the lake are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A daily pass is required for day use of the park. For more information: http://www.parks.state.co.us or call 970-533-7065.

McPhee Reservoir—The water level has been coming up quickly, the lake is about full and a little murky. The temperature is about 55 degrees. Fishing for rainbow trout and a few browns in the 12- to 18-inch range has been very good. Nitro Dough, Yum PowerBait and night crawlers have been working best. Fishing for smallmouth bass and an occasional largemouth has been improving. Most have been taken on silver-and-black or chartreuse tube jigs. Crank baits and spinner baits also have taken some bass. At least seven walleyes recently were caught on silver tube jigs. The key seems to be a color that matches kokanee salmon. The thermocline is at 20 feet. Most fish are located above that.

Mountain Home Reservoir—This lake recently was stocked with more than 3,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout. Fishing for rainbows reportedly is fair, with reports of fish up to 16 inches in length.

Navajo Reservoir—The water temp is 63 degrees. Crappie fishing is still fair with minnows and John Deere-green grubs. Bass fishing is very good by the rocky points on crank baits and plastics. Pike fishing is fair using broke-back Rapalas. Catfish fishing is good on shrimp and dough baits. For the latest updates on fishing call the marina at (970) 883-2628.

Ridgway Fishing Ponds—The Pa-Co-Chu-Puk ponds of Ridgway State Park are excellent for children because they are the only water below the dam not restricted to artificial flies and lures or catch-and-release fishing. A limit of four trout per person may be kept there, by children and licensed adults, 16 years and older. The ponds are stocked monthly throughout the summer. Fishing continues to be good. Try worms, grasshoppers and red salmon eggs. Fly fishermen might try a black Woolly Bugger or gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, size 14.

Ridgway Reservoir—No recent reports.

Rio Grande River—Recent water flows at Wagon Wheel Gap have been around 2,400 cubic feet per second. The salmon flies should begin to emerge over the next week or two. When the flows go down in a few weeks and the water clears up, fishing should improve. Anglers have reported some success by floating the river and on the Coller State Wildlife Area.

Road Canyon Reservoir—Anglers reported good fishing throughout the winter. Spring fishing has been good, with a number of individuals catching their limits in a few hours. Fish have ranged in size from 12-14 inches. The reservoir will be stocked throughout the months of June and July.

San Luis Lake—Due to low snowpack the reservoir will not be filled this season. The boat ramp has been closed to motorboats for the season and only hand-launched boats are permitted.

Sanchez Reservoir—Due to low water levels, the concrete boat ramp currently is closed and will likely remain that way for the remainder of the year. However, boats are allowed to launch from the shore, but there is some risk of getting stuck. Mandatory boat inspections are still in place and all boats must be inspected prior to launching. The inspection station will be open from approximately 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Please make sure your boat is clean, drained and dry. Due to the discovery of rusty crayfish, an invasive species, all crayfish must either be returned to the water alive or killed by removing the head from the body or thorax before they can be removed from the reservoir. Anglers have reported fair to good fishing for northern pike and walleye.

Smith Reservoir (San Luis Valley)—Fishing has been fair to good for rainbow trout. The reservoir was recently stocked with more than 2,500 rainbow trout.

Spring Creek Reservoir—The reservoir is free of ice and the road is open. Expect springtime fishing conditions.

Taylor Reservoir—The ice is gone and the lake is open to boats. The water level is low but the snowpack is deep and inlet creeks are running high. Large mackinaw have been plentiful in 10-20 feet of water. Jigs tipped with sucker meat, jointed Rapalas and Flatfish have been effective. Smaller lakers are being taken from the shore on standard trout baits and lures. Fishing for rainbow and brown trout also has been good, and some 10-pound northern pike recently were brought in. Boat inspections are conducted 5:30 a.m. to dark. Cottonwood Pass is open.

Taylor River—Releases from Taylor Dam have come down to a still-high 402 cfs, but with feeder creeks running high, the volume at Almont is up to 1,130 cfs. Fishing the Taylor at these flows is not recommended.

Tucker Ponds—The ponds will be stocked the first week of June and stocking will continue through July.



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