Slow fishing follows New Year’s Eve crowd on Crawford Reservoir

Hailey Carr, 7, of Crawford holds up one of the crappie her family caught Sunday during an outing on the ice at Crawford Reservoir.

Russ Orlowitz of Cañon City watches for movement under the ice as he tackles a slow day at Crawford Reservoir. So why is he smilin? Last year at this time, he was deployed in Iraq, which makes even a quiet day at Crawford seem just fine.



Crawford Reservoir has long been popular for yellow perch, black crappie and northern pike. There is no bag limit on perch, once overpopulous but now impacted since the illegal introduction of pike in the late 1990s.

A fish survey by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 1995 indicated 78 percent of the fishery was perch, crappie and bass. No pike were found.

According to Parks and Wildlife, by 2003 pike had started culling many of the smaller perch and anglers reported an increase in the average size of perch caught.

By 2005, perch numbers had increased to 45 percent and pike to 10 percent.

In 2008, a growing pike population (26 percent) knocked the perch down to 29 percent of the fishery. Crappie were up to 22 percent while bass were less than 1 percent.

That same year, a fish-survey crew from Parks and Wildlife tagged and released a female pike measuring 43 inches and weighing 24.5 pounds.

CRAWFORD STATE PARK — The ice cap Sunday morning on Crawford Reservoir creaked and groaned — perhaps it, too, was recovering from a New Year’s Eve surfeit of too many people and too much noise.

It couldn’t have been Sunday’s anglers, since for most of the day there weren’t enough people on the ice for a rugby scrum.

Those who were there, however, weren’t enjoying much action.

“Man, it’s slow,” lamented one angler as he and his two buddies trudged from near the dam to a point farther north. “We caught one pike and that was it. We’re going to try another spot.”

The slanting, midwinter sun chased the shadows to near the cliffs west of the dam, where Russ Orlowitz of Cañon City had just landed a fish that he said “looked like a perch but much smaller” from the depths.

“I just got here and bam, I caught that one tiny thing and that’s been it,” said Orlowitz, who with his wife Karen makes an annual year-end fishing trip to Crawford for perch.

He missed last year, but the 29-year soldier had a good reason: Seems the war in Iraq demanded his attention.

“Yeah, we get here when we can and I’m not off deployed somewhere,” said Orlowitz, who is stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs when he isn’t busy elsewhere. “I’ve seen everything from Grenada to Iraq. Now, maybe I’ll see Afghanistan.”

The fishing Sunday was unusually slow, he said.

“One year, four of us caught 481 perch, 150 trout, 4 crappie and one catfish,” recalled Orlowitz, carefully looking for any signs of life from the Humminbird fish finder at his feet. “It was like, you couldn’t get your bait down the hole before you had another fish on.

“But this year, I think in three days we’ve caught a total of maybe 40 crappie and three perch, including that 6-incher you saw.”

Of the 10 or so anglers scattered across the ice from the boat ramp to way across near the campground and around to the dam, nearly all were sitting or standing idly, waiting for something to bite.

Maybe it was the barometer, or the clear skies or maybe the fish were tired after all the action the previous day.

“We had about a million people out here Saturday,” said Kelly Beauchamp at the park ranger station. “You would have been amazed at how many people were fishing here.”

Closer to the dam but still over more than 30 feet of water under the 5-inch ice, John Cunningham of Crawford patiently twitched his fishing rod while eyeing the fish finder nearby.

A few feet away, his son Mike Carr and Carr’s two children, Trenton, 11, and Hailey, 7, were busy exploring for fish.

“The kids caught some crappie and Trenton caught a small smallmouth bass but that’s been about it,” said Cunningham, whose good nature wasn’t faded by the few fish in his bucket.

He pointed his fishing rod at the Vexilar fish finder.

“See? There’s a fish right there but darn if I can catch it,” he said. “These things (electronic fish finders) sure have changed ice fishing, but the fish don’t seem to be paying attention.”

There’s plenty of ice at Crawford but it’s never too thick to forget the basic rules of safety, Beauchamp said.

“I’ve heard there’s about 5 inches of ice out there,” she said, cautiously. “We never say the ice is safe.”


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