CDOW weekly fishing report — May 17, 2011


Anglers love to talk about the weather - and for good reason. The elements often play a key role in fishing success, not to mention an angler’s comfort while on the water, and the current season has provided much to talk about.

Many popular reservoirs had a relatively early ice-out, but with a pattern of high winds and weather front after weather front moving through, water temperatures have remained on the cool side.

Fishing success has been erratic. Between the passing storms, fishing on Spinney Mountain, Elevenmile and Antero reservoirs has been quite good. But on many foul-weather days it’s been a challenge.

After several more weeks of snow and cold, winter is slowly releasing its grip on Grand County’s big three lakes. Mackinaw, the largest member of the trout/char family, often are in shallow water at ice-out and accessible to fishermen.  Scott Murdoch, the District Wildlife Manager for Hot Sulfur Springs, said the ice is coming off Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, while Lake Granby is about 75 percent open. “The fishing is pretty good – there have been some big fish caught,” he said. “I expect it will be about a week or so before big fish move towards shore. But it’s coming.” 

Murdoch added that mandatory boat inspections will begin this weekend as part of Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species effort.

Green Mountain and Blue Mesa reservoirs are also good bets for a showdown with a heavyweight in spring, along with Turquoise Lake. This is also a prime time for catching larger-than-average trout at Lake John and the Delaney Buttes reservoirs, though if the wind is blowing it might not be exactly pleasant. Somewhat smaller lake trout are abundant in the Catamount reservoirs on the north slope of Pikes Peak.

Ice remains on some high-elevation lakes such as Taylor and Long Draw reservoirs, and a handful of back-country enthusiasts hope to squeeze in another day or two of ice fishing in various Alpine locations, ice-out recently arrived at the main North Park reservoirs and the Granby area complex of lakes.

If the weather is questionable for a trip to the mountains, lower-elevation lakes including many metro area waters have already been stocked with catchable-sized trout, providing lots of close-to-home opportunities.

Warm-water fishermen are mostly still waiting for their good times to roll around, though they appear to be getting closer. Action heats up when water temperatures cross the 50-degree threshold, and with the cool springtime weather, they’re not quite there yet.

Smaller waters tend to heat up quick, so farm ponds, gravel-pit ponds and other small lakes generally are the first to produce crappie, bass and bluegills. Even so, some warm-water activity already has been reported in the lakes of southeast Colorado, and with shad becoming active in Pueblo Reservoir, wipers and largemouth and smallmouth bass are beginning to stir. An occasional crappie has been taken at Lonetree and Lon Hagler reservoirs. Though not plentiful, they have been of decent size. Horsetooth and Chatfield reservoirs at present appear to offer the best possibilities for walleyes.

Stream fishermen, meanwhile, are trying to outguess the spring runoff. Flows are up in the Rio Grande, Colorado, Eagle, Crystal and Arkansas rivers, among others.  Early in the runoff the water might be discolored, but on a cool day it might still be fishable. You’ll find trout in the slower water near the edges.  Some hatches still might be coming off, but in marginal conditions, try larger nymphs and streamers to get the attention of trout.  Spin-fishermen can do well on lures such as Mepps or Panther Martin spinners through the early runoff. Where permitted, bait fishermen can enjoy success on worms and salmon eggs.

Tailwaters – the portions of a river directly below a dam – might offer the best conditions, but even there the water might be rising. Most of the South Platte system remains low and clear. The Blue River below Dillon Dam has been running higher than usual, which some fishermen prefer to the low, ultra clear flows of winter.

Cooler days might delay the runoff; a warming trend might trigger an exceptionally heavy one. Either way, the weather will remain a central topic of conversation.


Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.)—Flows from Dillon Dam are up, most recently at 584 cubic feet per second. Though wading is more difficult, fishing is good. Trout are dispersed and feeding in slower water next to the main currents. Somewhat larger fly patterns are in order. Try Flashback Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns and San Juan worms. 

Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle)—Fishing is still hit-and-miss but when it’s on, it’s been phenomenal. Essentially, the river has been discolored because the Eagle and Crystal rivers have blown out. When the river clears, hit it hard as fishing was absolutely sensational. 

Colorado River (near Granby)—Recent flows below Windy Gap and below Parshall were 1,930 cfs and 2,637 cfs, respectively - spring-runoff conditions that will increase. Copper Johns, RS-2s, Prince Nymphs, chartreuse Woolly Buggers, San Juan worms and egg patterns are commonly used when flow rates decrease. Weighted Woolly Buggers, other streamers and San Juan worms often the best in the high, turbid conditions. 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—The lake is free of ice. All standard fishing methods are permitted.

Crystal River—The Crystal is blown out. Look for better fishing on the Roaring Fork and the Frying Pan rivers. 

Delaney Buttes—North, South and East Delaney reservoirs are free of ice. Fishermen have reported mixed results at ice-out. Some have taken decent-sized fish; others have been disappointed. 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 appears to have begun and the river has been off-color. 

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. 

Frying Pan River—Flows on the Frying Pan are at 350 cfs. Mysis shrimp, trailed by a Baetis or midge have been a key fly in the higher flows. Best fishing times: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Granby Reservoir—Sunset and Stillwater boat ramps are open. Arapaho Creek and below Shadow Mountain Dam are very popular areas to fish and camp. 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 of catching fish. At ice-off, the mackinaw are hungry and come into shallow water to feed, along with browns and rainbows; it is one of the best times of the year to fish. 

Grand Lake—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 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. Many fishermen consider ice-off to be the best time of the year. The mouth of the channel, the public boat dock area, and the West Portal are prime spots. 

Green Mountain Reservoir—The lake is thawed. The level is down about 50 feet. Putting a boat in the water is difficult and the only access is at the marina. Fishing from shore has been good. Folks are catching lake trout. 

Harvey Gap Reservoir—Fishing has been fair for rainbow trout along the dam. Fishermen have been having some success for northern pike, as well. Fishing has been fair for yellow perch. Lots of smaller perch 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—So far this spring, 5,300 trout of various sizes have been added to Mack Mesa and 8,000 trout to Highline. Mack Mesa fishing is really picking up. Highline is still a little slow, but should pick up for bass soon. Parks staff is reminding anglers that if they catch a northern pike at either lake, please remove it from the water and notify park staff.

Lake John—Lake John is free of ice and the boat docks are in place. Trout still are in shallow water near the shore. Shoreline fishermen have taken some 5- to 7-pound trout primarily on salmon eggs. Shallow trolling and casting from boats also can be effective. 

Pearl Lake—The inlet is open but not much more than that. No open water was evident late last week.

Rifle Gap Reservoir—Fishing is 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. 

Roaring Fork River—Though conditions vary from day to day, depending on the weather, the runoff season is under way. The upper river has the best clarity. Trout are in the quieter water close to the bank. Some caddis activity still is occurring in the lower portions. 

Shadow Mountain Reservoir—The boat ramp at the south end is open. 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. The canal and the area where it enters the reservoir are prime fishing sites; kokanee, rainbows, browns, and sometimes lake trout can be caught. Small jigs tipped with wax worms, mealworms, PowerBait or eggs are commonly used. Fishing is also good in the spillway below the dam. Trolling, bottom fishing, spin-casting, and fly fishing are good methods to use. 

Stagecoach Reservoir—The reservoir has opened to boating. A pre-inspection for ANS is required prior to launching. The marina ramp is open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and the Morrison Cove ramp will be open Friday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., throughout the season. Trout have been hitting on flies, lures, PowerBait and worms. Pike activity is expected to pick up soon. Tailwaters fishing is good using eggs and San Juan worms above size 18-24, olive RS2s, WD40s and Barr’s Emergers. Tailwaters flow is around 200 cfs. The redds are down and fenced so please avoid these areas. 

Steamboat Lake—The ice has not changed in color and is 16-18 inches thick, with about 24 inches of slush on top. Willow Creek is open at the culvert under County Road 62, with enough room for one fisherman. The webcam that is usually pointed at Hahn’s Peak has been turned to Placer Cove so you can see the progress of ice-off. The link:

Vega Reservoir—The ice is gone. The South Road is closed but lake is accessible by the county road. Shoreline is muddy. 

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. 

Willow Creek Reservoir—The reservoir is very low to allow for a very high spring runoff. 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 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. Be very cautious around the river; it is deep and fast at the present time. 

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


Blue Mesa Reservoir—Lake Fork and Elk Creek boat ramps are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Stevens Creek and Iola are to open May 27. Trout fishing is good along the rocks using marabou jigs tipped with mealworms or by trolling Rapala-type lures at 10-25 feet. Lake trout fishing is picking up with fish being caught in 20-50 feet of water. 

Crawford Reservoir—Spring fishing has been fairly good from boats and from the shore. Anglers have been catching some large pike and also reporting perch, crappie, trout and catfish. 

Gunnison River (through the canyon)—The flow in the Gunnison Gorge is 2,540 cfs. The river is clear above the confluence of the North Fork and Gunnison. Water is high and clear, and the best fishing is with red San Juan worms. Fishing should improve in about a week. The North Fork is too high to wade. Call Gunnison River Pleasure Park at 1-888-782-7542 for other information. 

Jackson Gulch Reservoir—Fishing has been good for 10-12 inch rainbow trout and 4-6 inch yellow perch (no limit). The lake level is rising due to warmer weather and snow melt. Water temperature ranges from 42 to 45 degrees. Rainbow trout will be stocked monthly through the summer. Trollers are having success with spinners and 1/4-ounce jigs. Shore anglers are catching trout on various PowerBaits. Trout are active near the inlet. Yellow perch love worms. Be sure to bring plenty of bait as there is no place to buy it nearby. Jackson Gulch requires an ANS inspection before launching boats. Call 970-882-2213 to arrange an inspection. Regular inspection hours at the lake will begin May 27. A daily pass is required for day use of the park. For more information: or call 970-882-2213.

Navajo Reservoir—With the water temperature at 51 degrees, crappie have started biting on the Colorado side. Some northern pike and bass also have been reported. 

Ridgway Reservoir—Bank anglers still are doing OK with night crawlers and plain salmon eggs. Keep it simple, and try using lures for a chance at a large brown trout, which don’t seem to be biting on bait. 

Taylor Reservoir—The lake remains frozen. Ice-out usually occurs in late May.


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