CDOW weekly fishing report — week of May 3, 2011

Mild, sunny days. Rain. More sun — then a burst of snow. And wind — always the wind.

Welcome to springtime in Colorado. 

With May just beginning, fishermen have seen just about every imaginable twist and turn of the weather. But savvy anglers who can adapt to variable conditions will find that spring offers some of the best times to be on the water.

Streams generally are flowing low and clear, ahead of a spring runoff that’s expected to be significant in most of the state’s northern river basins. Almost one month after the traditional peak for snowpack, snow depth in the Colorado, North Platte and South Platte basins is more than 150 percent of average. Before the freshet, blue-wing-olive mayflies offer the first notable hatches on many trout streams. While localized, these hatches are well under way. Warm, overcast afternoons are prime time for the BWOs to emerge on the Arkansas, South Platte and many other rivers.

Early May also is the time for Brachycentrus caddis to hatch on many rivers. Though water temperature affects caddis activity, when the time is right the hatches can be spectacular. At their peak, with clouds of caddis everywhere, the hatches have been compared to raging blizzards, and seemingly every trout in the river is gorging on the emerging insects.

Between the hatches, a productive approach is dead-drifting a nymph designed to suggest an immature mayfly, caddis or stonefly through riffles and other likely areas of the stream.

Spring smiles on flat water anglers as well. Most mid-elevation reservoirs already are free of ice and on others the ice cover is quickly receding. Trout often are cruising in relatively shallow water close to shore, where they are readily accessible to fishermen and can be taken by virtually every standard fishing technique.

Some of the largest trout of the year are landed in early spring on waters such as Elevenmile, Spinney Mountain and Antero reservoirs in South Park and their Delaney Buttes and Lake John counterparts in North Park. Woolly Buggers and other streamer flies, leeches, scuds and egg patterns are good bets for fly fishermen.  Spin-fishermen get results with Rapala-like crank baits, jerk baits, Kastmasters, Daredevils and other hardware. When permitted, a variety of baits can also yield good results.

While big water offers a better chance to catch large fish, smart anglers won’t overlook smaller mountain lakes. Many have holdover trout that survived the winter, and most also are stocked with catchable-sized trout from the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s hatchery system.

Lower-elevation waters, including many metro-area lakes also are stocked with trout in the spring. They provide close-to-home fishing, and if springtime weather in the high country is questionable, they at least offer reliable opportunity for winter-weary anglers.

While warm-water fishing will remain slow until temperatures rise, it’s already May - and that will happen soon enough.

Trout are on the move – Among the surest signs of spring are Colorado Division of Wildlife hatchery trucks delivering catchable-sized trout to waters across the state.  Lower-elevation lakes, including many metro-area lakes and ponds, are the first to be free of ice and as a rule are the first to receive trout. The effort is well under way and low-elevation stocking will continue through the spring. Higher-elevation waters will be stocked as they thaw and become accessible, and many will be stocked periodically through the summer.

By the time stocking season ends, DOW plans to stock a total of 3,198,642 catchable-sized trout. The DOW also will place 14,331,280 sub-catchable trout to into suitable waters to grow. DOW’s hatcheries also will produce 60,617,448 warm-water fish and 113,400 non-game species for a grand total of 78,260,770 fish in 2011.

Antero Drawdown – After several years of monitoring seepage in the dam, Denver Water will lower the level of Antero Reservoir by two feet as a safety precaution to reduce water pressure. The drawdown began this week and will require four to five weeks to complete.

The reservoir will remain open to fishing and the Colorado Division of Wildlife will continue to manage the fishery.  At least in the short term, the drawdown is not expected to affect fishing in the reservoir.

Built in 1909, the Antero Reservoir Dam has been under reservoir storage restrictions imposed by state dam safety inspectors for many years to ensure public safety.  Lowering the water level will reduce seepage, and further engineering studies will determine Denver Water’s long-term plans for the facility. The DOW will have a better understanding of the fishery’s future when the studies are complete.

Bonny Reservoir – As Colorado prepares to drain Bonny Reservoir to help the state come into compliance with the Republican River Compact between Kansas and Nebraska, the Colorado Division of Wildlife will recommend lifting bag and possession limits on all sport fish caught at the southeastern Yuma County Reservoir.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will be asked to approve removing bag and possession limits at its May meeting in Salida. Once the reservoir is drained in the fall of 2011, it will be incapable of supporting the majority of game fish species currently found in the reservoir.

The proposed change in regulations is intended to allow the public to salvage and put to use those fish prior to the draining of the reservoir. If the regulation is approved, recreational anglers would still need to have a valid Colorado fishing license and will be asked to fill out a two-part form indicating the number and species of fish kept when they complete their fishing. Forms will be available at self-service kiosks at the entrance points. Check back here for updates.


Colorado River (near Granby)—The water flows below Windy Gap and below Parshall are 841 cfs and 934 cfs, respectively. Copper Johns, RS-2s, Prince Nymphs, chartreuse Woolly Buggers,San Juan worms and egg patterns are commonly used. However, in these high, fast, turbid water conditions, weighted Woolly Buggers, streamers and San Juan worms can be the best. 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.

Delaney Buttes—East Delaney is about half open. North and South have expanding areas of open water.

Elkhead Reservoir—Fishing at the Lake is reported to be favorable. The variety of species in the lake is small mouth bass, crappie, northern pike, catfish and trout. The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program announced last week 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 and fishing for smallmouth is picking up.

Granby Reservoir—The reservoir is still 99 percent 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. Ice-off is being delayed by cool, snowy weather. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms, and sucker meat are viable bates. Fish Creek Spinners, Matzuo, Rapala, Kastmaster, Tazmanian Devils,and etc. are all good lures.

Grand Lake—The lake has open water, but some ice still is left. 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 and browns, and kokanee salmon are available.

Green Mountain Reservoir—Open at the inlet up to Black Creek. The main body of the lake is still covered in ice. The area by Elliot Creek and the dam has some open water. Folks have been catching lake trout on gold lures such as Blue Fox.

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, a total of 5,300 trout of various sizes have been added to Mack Mesa and 8,000 trout to Highline. Mack Mesa is 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 had 15 percent open water earlier in the week.

Pearl Lake—No reports from anyone who has been at Pearl. No open water as of last week. 4/29/2011 Steamboat Lake The ice has not changed in color about 24 inches of slush on top of 16-18 inches of ice. Willow creek was open at the culvert under CR 62 enough for one fisherman. It is snowing today and no other inlets have opened up yet. We have turned the webcam that is usually pointed at Hahn’s Peak to Placer Cove so you can see the progress of ice off. Here is the link:

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.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir—Some 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.

Stagecoach Reservoir—There is shore fishing available at the inlet on the north side of the lake. There is no safe access to the ice for ice fishing as the ice has begun to break from the shoreline. Trout have been hitting on flies, lures, power bait and worms. Tailwaters fishing is good using midges and size 24 nymphs. CR 18 is open. Parking is limited at the tailwater due to large snowbanks. If the parking lot is full, park at the Dam or come back another time.

Steamboat Lake—4/29/2011 The ice has not changed in color about 24 inches of slush on top of 16-18 inches of ice. Willow creek was open at the culvert under CR 62 enough for one fisherman. It is snowing today and no other inlets have opened up yet. We have turned the webcam that is usually pointed at Hahn’s Peak to Placer Cove so you can see the progress of ice off. Here is the link:

Vega Reservoir—Open water fishing is finally beginning. There is open water access from Marmots Knoll on the west side of the lake. Although the lake is beginning to melt along all edges, be sure to wear your mud boots to get through the remaining snow, slush or mud. At this time, access to Fisherman’s Flats is closed due to the mud. Fishing licenses may be purchased at the Visitor Center.

Williams Fork Reservoir—There is still a lot of ice on the reservoir, but a large area is open at the inlet. Rainbow and brown trout, lake trout, northern pike and kokanee are available.

Willow Creek Reservoir—The reservoir is still iced over.


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

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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