CDOW weekly fishing report — May 24, 2011

Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of the summer outdoor-recreation season, and in Colorado it just might be the most popular fishing weekend of the entire year.

For many winter-weary Colorado fishermen, Memorial Day is both the first chance to get away for an extended weekend and the final holiday before the “tourist season.”  Whether as a quick escape or a mini vacation, the upcoming holiday offers some good fishing opportunities. With some exceptions, conditions are good, and according to the long-range forecasts even the weather across much of the state will be pleasant.

All but the highest lakes are ice-free. Trout and kokanee salmon are active, and the period soon after ice-out may be the best of the entire year to catch a mackinaw in shallow water. Whether in the mountains or the lowlands, almost all major reservoirs have water levels suitable for fishing.  Some lakes have mainly resident fish; others have been stocked with catchable-sized trout from the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s hatchery system.

Mountain creeks and beaver ponds generally are open. Most are accessible, although snowdrifts and muddy conditions may hamper access in some locations. Creeks also might be high and discolored from melting snow and difficult to fish.

Though the amount of winter snowpack varies across the state, most major rivers have been affected by the spring runoff.  Some may be marginally fishable, but with the enormous snowpack still perched at their heads, optimal conditions are months away. A few are essentially impossible to fish.


Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.)—Flows from Dillon Dam have come up again. Tuesday’s volume was 1,230 cubic feet per second. Though wading is more difficult, fishing can be 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, San Juan worms and streamer patterns, and don’t rule out a hatch of blue-wing-olive mayflies.

Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle)—Runoff is under way on the Colorado. The flows have been around 10,000 cubic feet per second. Head up the Frying Pan for the Roaring Fork Valley’s best fishing.

Colorado River (near Granby)—Recent flows below Windy Gap and below Parshall were 1,930 cfs and 2,728 cfs, respectively - spring runoff conditions that are still increasing. Under regular conditions, Copper Johns, RS-2s, Prince Nymphs, chartreuse Woolly Buggers, San Juan worms and egg patterns are commonly used. Weighted Woolly Buggers, other streamers and San Juan worms often work best in medium-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—All standard fishing methods are permitted. 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. Look for better fishing on the Roaring Fork and the Frying Pan rivers.

Delaney Buttes Reservoirs—North, South and East Delaney reservoirs are free of ice. Fly fishermen have been taking trout on midge patterns suspended in 5 feet of water, as well as scuds and leeches. 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—Flows have come down during the past week, probably due to colder weather. Though the river may be fishably clear, expect runoff conditions to return when temperatures rise.

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 have been at 357 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. Good numbers of BWOs have been hatching between mile marks 12 and 4. Dry fly fishing is solid on overcast and warm days. Keep an eye out for caddis showing themselves in the evening hours, which can make for some great surface action.

Granby Reservoir—Many large lake trout have been caught from the bank and boats since ice-off. 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 to catch fish. Campgrounds are opening this week and fishing conditions should be good. A lot of water is being let out to prepare for above-average run-off, but the water level is good. Look forward to a wonderful holiday weekend.

Grand Lake—Despite snowy, rainy weather, fishing has been excellent. 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. The mouth of the channel, the public boat dock area, and the West Portal are prime spots. Look for a great holiday weekend.

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. Though unpleasant weather has kept down the crowds, fishing has been good. Worms have been among the most effective baits. Trollers have been getting fish in 12-15 feet of water on Needlefish and Buoyants. Belly-boating fly fishermen have been getting trout on streamers.

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—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 has opened to boating. 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 8 p.m., throughout the season, as staffing allows. 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 sizes 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. The water level of the reservoir is only one foot from spilling over the dam.

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 remains closed but Plateau Creek and the gravel pits are accessible by the county road around the lake. The 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. 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. The holiday weekend should be a great time to be here. Camping is available. No reservations are accepted.

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.


Beaver Creek Reservoir—The water level is 20 feet below the high-water mark. It will be maintained at or below this 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 been doing a little better toward the inlet.

Big Meadows Reservoir—The road is currently open to Shaw Lake; however, the campgrounds remain closed. We have not had any fishing reports yet.

Blue Mesa Reservoir—Trolling remains the most productive technique. Rapala-type lures and typical salmon gear are producing large numbers of fish daily. If you can brave the weather, the fishing is great. Fifty-plus fish days are common now, with a mixed bag of all species. Big lakers are biting but inconsistent, with most catches being reported in the 30- to 60-foot depth range.

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.

Gunnison River (Upper from Almont to Blue Mesa)—Flows have been up and down during the past week, reflecting a period of cooler weather. Tuesday’s volume was 1,570 cubic feet per second, but when warmer weather returns that is expected to rise significantly. The water has been fishably clear, and although wading is virtually impossible, float fishermen have enjoyed fairly good success. Streamer flies, large nymphs, and spinning lures have been the ticket.

Jackson Gulch Reservoir—Fishing has been good for 10-12 inch rainbow trout and 4-6 inch yellow perch, which have no limit. The lake level is rising due to recent rain and snow melt. Trollers are having success with in-line spinners and 1/4-ounce jigs. Shore anglers are catching trout on various PowerBaits. Trout are especially active in flowing water near the inlet. Yellow perch love worms. Be sure to bring plenty of bait because 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. 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.

Mountain Home Reservoir—This lake was recently stocked with more than 3,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout. Fishing for rainbows reportedly is fair to slow with the typical baits and lures.

Navajo Reservoir—The water temperature is 56 degrees and the lake is coming up nicely. The water is a little murky, but crappie fishing is good and soon should be great. Fishing for catfish is slow. Bass fishing is good on plastics and crank baits. Pike fishing is slow, but a few are being caught. For current information call the marina at 970-883-BOAT.

Rio Grande River—Recent water flows at Wagon Wheel Gap have been around 850 cubic feet per second. As the flows go down in a few weeks, 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. The reservoir is ice-free and 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.

Sanchez Reservoir—The boat ramp will be open approximately 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. All boats must be inspected prior to launching. 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. The water level is about 5-8 feet below the boat ramp so boaters may need to launch from the shore. Anglers have reported fair to good fishing for northern pike and walleye.

Spring Creek Reservoir—The reservoir remained inaccessible last week with four inches of snow on the access road. It likely won’t be open for Memorial Day.

Taylor Reservoir—The lake was about 50 percent open early in the week. Boat ramps are not yet in service but hand-launched craft may be used.

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


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