It’s a water thing
Fish stocking follows the water on Grand Mesa
The short list of known uses for a fishing rod includes catching fish, starting a conversation and oh, yes, lightning rod.
A weekend trip to Grand Mesa in part was to see how the mesa’s lakes are holding up this drought-hit summer and also to find someplace cooler than the scorched-earth flatlands of the Grand Valley.
The latter didn’t prove very hard, given that several thermometers around town were hitting the high 90s by the time Interstate 70 came into view around 2 p.m.
It was 97 degrees at Palisade, 94 where I-70 crosses Plateau Creek, 88 at Mesa and 77 at Powderhorn 40 minutes after leaving town.
At Mesa Lakes the gauge read an acceptable 65 degrees, helped along by a quick-moving rainstorm dappling the surface of a slimmed-down Jumbo Reservoir like 10,000 rising trout.
Ten minutes along the trail to Lake of the Woods, with clouds the color of old battleships scraping the ridge top, I encountered a couple of map-challenged anglers.
“We’ve never been here before, and we’re wondering how far it is to the lake,” said the woman, who failed to say if she was referring to Lake of the Woods or one of the Bull Basin/Creek reservoirs dotting the far trees.
Her answer was in the form of lightning cracking overhead, and immediately the couple abandoned valor in favor of discretion and a dry car, leaving the trail to a lone hiker and 37 soggy, forlorn cows.
Daily Sentinel hiking guru Bill Haggerty wrote about Lake of the Woods and the trail to it in Sunday’s newspaper, but suffice it to say I enjoyed the rain Haggerty missed.
After 90 minutes of downpour, a few trout still were rising between raindrops on Lake of the Woods, which, like most waters on Grand Mesa, has shrunk a bit this summer but still has plenty of water. In summers such as this, it’s a tossup if your hike into a lake will find either water or fish.
Aquatic biologist Lori Martin of Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the low snowpack this winter enabled hatchery trucks to stock some lakes earlier than usual, “providing fishing opportunities that anglers typically experience later in the fishing season.”
“Unfortunately, over the last couple of months, we have had to alter our stocking regimes in relation to water demand,” Martin said. “We’ve had to reroute fish to other waters with more favorable conditions for fish.”
It’s wise to remember the water on Grand Mesa is owned by the water users who enjoy fishing as much as you but generally have other needs for their water. The water you fish today may be watering peaches tomorrow.
“Some waters on Grand Mesa are or will be completely drained,” Martin warned, “while others will have very little water available to sustain fisheries throughout the rest of the year and over the winter.”
It’s a partnership between water users and Parks and Wildlife that keeps the lakes open for fishing, and Martin said the agency is constantly working with the water managers “to help us better manage fisheries on Grand Mesa in response to the drought conditions.”