CDOW weekly fishing report — May 10, 2011

Spring fishing is fraught with uncertainty: water conditions, weather, the life-stage of aquatic insects and other fish food – or maybe just the mood of the fish. When things don’t quite go according to plan, take a cue from the fish:  Be an opportunist.

Stream fishermen might head to their favorite river anticipating a particular hatch – the celebrated caddis event on the Arkansas River, for example – and be locked in to it. They expect to fish caddis imitating-flies, and if the hatch doesn’t come off as projected, they’re at a loss. They’re determined to fish the caddis and caddis only. They’ll keep at despite a lack of strikes and at the end of the day they go home disappointed.

But a lack of success doesn’t mean a lack of hungry fish. Without a primary hatch, fish feed opportunistically. On big rivers like the Arkansas, the Roaring Fork, Rio Grande or other productive river, there’s always something to eat. Chances are a well-presented stonefly nymph, mayfly nymph or some other imitation of river-borne forage would do the trick. An angler with a sharp eye might profit from a localized hatch of blue-wing-olive mayflies to put trout on the end of the line. On rivers such as the Colorado where the runoff is beginning, a weighted Woolly Bugger, other streamer or even a San Juan worm could do the trick.

The same mindset can be applied to the popular impoundments. Ice-out is an excellent time for fishing along the shoreline of Spinney Mountain Reservoir, among others. Trout may be in a spawning mode, cruising near the shore, or merely in shallow water looking for food. The standard procedure is casting streamer flies, egg patterns, Rapalas and tube jigs along the shore. Later, when the late-spring and summer hatches have begun, the trout are likely to be feeding along the weed beds, usually farther from the shore.

Between ice-out and the summer hatches, the fish might not be as obvious but they’re still around and still feeding. Casting from shore becomes less productive, but fishing from a standard boat or inflatable craft can bring the trout into range. They might be deeper, but a crayfish-imitating lure, Woolly Bugger, leech or scud pattern can produce some good results.

Whether lake or stream, late-spring fishing can be a wonderful time to be on the water. But the season is dynamic and conditions can change quickly. Consistently successful anglers are flexible and opportunistic. They change their approach to exploit the conditions in front of them.

Northwest Region

Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle) - Fishing is still hit-and-miss but when it’s on, it’s been phenomanal. 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) - Flows below Windy Gap and below Parshall are 2,000 cfs and 2,301 cfs, respectively - spring runoff conditions that will increase. Copper Johns, RS-2s, Prince Nymphs, chartreus Woolly Buggers, San Juan worms and egg patterns are commonly used. 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.

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

Delaney Buttes - North and East Delaney reservoirs are free of ice. South Delaney was about 50 percent open at the start of the week.

Eagle River - The runoff appears to have begun and the river has been off-color.

Elkhead Reservoir - Fishing has been slow. The the lake has smallmouth bass, crappie, northern pike, catfish and trout. 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.

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.-4 p.m.

Granby Reservoir - The reservoir is still almost completely ice-covered. A growing open area is at the mouth of Stillwater, and fishing also is possible in Arapaho Creek and below Shadow Mountain Dam. Three fairly warm, sunny days have made the ice look like it is getting soft. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms, and sucker meat are viable baits. Fish Creek spinners, Matzuo, Rapala, Kastmaster, Tazmanian Devils, etc., all are good lures.

Grand Lake - The lake has open water, but ice still covers much of the surface. Fishing the open water in the channel and at the West Portal is good. Lures, night crawlers, meal and wax worms are working. Jigging with sucker meat is common and productive. This lake is over 270 feet deep and can be difficult, but also very rewarding. It has very large lake trout, nice rainbows, browns and kokanee salmon.

Green Mountain Reservoir - The lake is thawed and ice-out is a great time for fishing. Lake trout being caught on gold Blue Fox lures. The only open campground is McDonald’s Flats.

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 are reminding anglers that if you catch a northern pike at either lake, please remove it from the water and notify park staff.

Lake John - Lake John went from 40 percent to completely open in the course of one day. A couple of boats already have been on the water.

Pearl Lake - No recent reports, but no open water as of last week.

Rifle Gap Reservoir - Fishing is fair to good for trout and yellow perch all over the lake. Northern pike has been fair to good near the inlet and in shallow areas.

Roaring Fork River - Current water clarity is about a foot. The caddis hatch is as thick as you’ll find anywhere. From 2 p.m. to dark, caddis are blanketing the water. Skate, skitter and pop your dries. Fish have moved out of the deep pits and now are found in shallower pockets and riffles. Fish also are eating bigger flies. Large stoneflies and eggs are key, followed up by a midge or Baetis pattern.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir - Much ice remains, but boats are being launched from the south ramp. 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, and browns can be caught. Small jigs tipped with wax worms, mealworms, Power Bait or eggs are commonly used. Fishing is also good in the spillway below the dam.

Stagecoach Reservoir - The reservoir has opened to boating and 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, Power Bait and worms. Pike activity is expected to pick up soon. Tailwaters fishing is good using eggs and San Juans worms above size 18-24, olive RS2s, WD40s and Brr’s Emergers. Tailwaters flow is around 150 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 - A lot of ice on the reservoir but also a large open area at the inlet. Also, the ice has pulled back from the banks in many areas. Rainbow and brown trout, lake trout, northern pike and kokanee are available. Trolling(when the ice is gone), jigging, fly fishing, bait and lures can all catch fish.

Willow Creek Reservoir - The reservoir is wide open, except for one ice bridge. It 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, Power Bait, eggs, lures and flies are all used to get the fish to bite.

Southwest Region

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 27th. 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 as well as from shore. Anglers have been catching some large pike and also reporting perch, crappie and trout.

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. On May 5, 11,000 rainbow trout were stocked. Trollers have been using Panther Martins and small Rapalas. Bank anglers have had success with night crawlers, mealworms and various colors of Power Bait. Trout are especially active near the inlet. Be sure to bring plenty of bait as there is no place nearby to buy it. Jackson Gulch requires an ANS inspection before launching boats. Please 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 - Water temp was 49 degrees on May 2. Fishing is very slow and approximately two weeks behind schedule because of the weather. Hope we have a better report next week.

Ridgway Reservoir - Parks staff is reporting fair fishing conditions. Bank anglers have been doing alright using night crawlers and red 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. The kokanee are no longer running. Fishing on the river at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk is running low and cold. Small flies, such as a midge, are working best.


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