Monday, May 28, 2012

The wind cries skunky...

Groundhog Reservoir has always been one of my favorite places to catch dinner. The trout there are either natural reproductions or stocked as fingerlings, so they've known very little of the concrete raceway. They eat a diet rich in crayfish and perhaps some sort of shrimp that make their meat salmon colored and very tasty. All this plus they are just damn easy to catch. My father-in-law showed us the ropes there, fishing black jigs slowly along the rip rap and pulling in our limit quickly and wondering what to do with the rest of the day.

That's the usual story anyway. Sunday and today were a different story! The barometer was rising the entire time we were there from the high 30.05 to 30.25 by this afternoon (3 day history is useful at NOAA) and the temperatures had dropped. Friday and Saturday saw intense high winds. I was wearing a blue shirt. Any of these factors could have played in, I've heard reliable good fishermen tell me high pressure is when to fish and I've heard the same said about low pressure. Truth be told? I dunno, you tell me, feel free to comment.

In other news, I fly fished a few creeks and the Dolores with small PMDs and Caddis but found the water to be moving fairly quick. I was not motivated to try anything subsurface probably because of my post-skunk-hangover.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wind, Entrails & Crawdaddies

I don't know about you, but I get too annoyed at the wind to even make a go at it today. Today is a good day to tie some flies, work on my fillet knife and read a bit. I was reading through the DOW stocking reports and website and found some interesting information. A couple things in the Colorado fishing regulations seem very odd to me, and I'd like to discuss them here. The first is that they ask that we NOT return fish entrails to the water. It seems that half the states require that you DO this and half require that you DON'T. It seems to me that this fish and the contents of its body will eventually die of natural causes or be eaten by another fish or an Osprey, Eagle or other predator. At this point the fish and its entrails will be consumed by Crayfish, other fish, and micro organisms. I was always taught growing up that we're feeding the water that feeds us by returning entrails and fish parts back to the water. This makes perfect sense to me. I've honestly never heard a straight answer from anyone about the topic. I've learned that Whirling Disease typically exists in the cartilage of trout and not in the entrails, so preventing the spread of this disease doesn't seem to be a valid reason. So what is the deal? Comments are welcome! I have no problem complying with regulations like this, but I've never heard this one backed up with any science or logic. To me it seems far more logical to feed the lake.

The second odd regulation is the one about Crayfish. Invasive Rusty Crayfish were accidentally introduced to the Yampa headwaters and Sanchez Reservoir and therefore we are all prohibited from transporting live Crayfish. The rule goes that you must immediately kill any crayfish taken from the water by separating its tail from its head. Now, any of you crustacean connoisseurs out there are already retching at the idea of not "flushing" your live Crayfish before boiling them. I think this regulation stops honest fishermen from properly enjoying their catch and does little or nothing to stop the spread of Rusty Crayfish. Let's say I caught a trap full of Crayfish at Puett reservoir (no Rusty Crayfish here) and I brought them to my house in Durango. I'd flush them with clean water a couple times to remove the muddy taste, and then they'd go into a pot of rapidly boiling water. How exactly does this help the spread of invasive Crayfish?

So there you have it, my two cents on two regulations that do not seem well thought out. ANS and Disease prevention are more efficiently handled with education and cooperation than with blanket regulations. Feel free to comment.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Little Molas & Andrews

We figured the wind was going to be awful no matter where we went so we headed up to Little Molas Lake for some Brookie action but found nothing. The usual combo of Kastmasters and Jigs produced nothing. Andrews lake was much the same. I don't know much about winter kills in these lakes, I'm fairly sure Little Molas has a healthy population of Brookies, but I don't know about Andrews at all. I've heard that it winterkills semi-often and is stocked each year. Do you know anything about these lakes or any others up there? Please post a comment!

Little Molas Lake


Andrews Lake

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Williams Creek Reservoir & Tailwater

Wind, wind, wind, wind, wind, wind, wind, wind with wind. It's stupid to get angry at the wind but very very easy to do. The wind and clouds seemed to have plans that did not include fishing during the last 48 hours. The wind howled at Williams Creek Res, but we did catch some Kokanee from shore using jigs, both black and yellow maribou. That was fairly surprising, but they were of decent size (for kokes) and really really tasty. The tailwater seemed to be a bit off color and moving quick and we didn't catch anything down there. Either way, we returned to camp and cooked some kokes that were delicious. Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper and a good fire is all you need (tin foil helps) We threw them right on the coals for 15 mins which may be about 3 mins too long. Tasty. This morning we fished Williams Creek lower down with no luck. I realized that I might need some bigger bugs. Being used to the San Juan and Animas I realized that I have very few flies bigger than size 24.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Advice...

I should learn to follow it sometime. "60cfs is too high on the La Plata" heck you can scroll down and see when I wrote that a couple of weeks ago. So what? Yep. Tried again, failed again. Those Brookies are there. If I was starving I'd probably use a very heavy weight with a floating leader and a nightcrawler.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vallecito Report

We were going stir crazy with the boat grounded and us rebuilding the transom, so while the new transom boards were clamped and glued we headed out to Vallecito for some fun. It was pretty much stocker sized rainbows around the dam, none of the bigger fish we'd seen last week. The Osprey looked very happy. We headed over to a spot near the east islands where I caught a smallie last time. It was very windy, and the fishing was just stockers again. Black jigs, kastmasters, yellow jigs, watermelon tubes. I think it was a factor of time of day, weather, and bad luck. Oh well! The transom is on its 3rd coat of fiberglass. I'm pretty stoked! The ol gal should be back on the water in a matter of days. Another week or three and she'll be a hydroplanin gas powered monster!

Friday, May 18, 2012

What is this called and where do I get one?

So I'm replacing the Transom of my old Montgomery Ward Sea-King Boat. The boat has taken some tumbles over the year and isn't exactly symmetrically shaped anymore but I'm hoping to at least get the corners back in shape. One of these pieces pictured is broken, and I am trying to find a replacement. I'm not afraid to drill some new holes if I can't find the exact piece. It looks like cast aluminum, I'd be afraid to try to have the other piece welded, with all the imperfections in cast aluminum I don't want it going POP!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

East Fork of Hermosa Creek

A nice view of some 2012 Hermosa Creek Cutthroat Trout provided by our good friends at Fly Fish The San Juans. Travis, who snapped this shot, accelerated my fly fishing with tips about casting, entomology, weather, light angles and a variety of things I seldom gave thought. I think no matter one's fly fishing resumé, they could learn a thing or two from Travis, who also offers casting lessons, fly tying techniques and guided trips.

I'm happy to get some cool pics from Travis to post here today because I didn't go fishing. It sounds so hollow and echoey to say but... no fishing. What I did do was finish my paintjob on the boat trailer and drilling the old rotten transom from the back of the boat. I'm about to make a new one, I'm grounded for a couple days. I'll post pictures of me drinking beer and scratching my head while my more knowledgable friends fix things.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vallecito Gillnet Survey 2012

I got a chance to peek at the results of the 2012 gillnet survey performed on May 10th. I guess for me the news was good and better... Walleye were 29% of the catch. Sure, they say don't eat more than one a month, but heck I can share, and Walleye are very very good to eat. Second on the list were Kokanee Salmon at 21% of the catch! Food, and Food! Next were Rainbow Trout at 17% and White Suckers at 15%, Northern Pike at 9%, Brown Trout at 5% and Smallmouth Bass at 2% Like I've said before, what a diverse fishery! I'm no biologist but this sounds like a great mix of fish to me. The largest fish was a 15 pound Pike. Hopefully the new allowing of spear and bow fishing (in which it's easiest to go for the big ones) won't take its toll on the large Pike population. I've heard that when all the large Pike are removed from the water there is often a bloom of smaller Pike, suggesting that Pike may thin their own herds. I have seen absolutely no research on this matter, and have not observed it myself so I have no reliable way of knowing if it is true, but it sort of makes sense to me. I've seen Pike hit such a wide variety of lures that I'd imagine they're not above a little cannibalism. Feel free to comment!

Either way, I'm happy to have such a diverse selection of fish nearby. Within a 25 mile radius we've got Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutbows, Brown Trout, Brook Trout (Don't be fooled, they're actually Char), Walleye, Pike, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Channel Catfish, Yellow Perch, Crappie and last but not least the extremely edible Kokanee Salmon. I probably missed something there too. Oh yeah, Crayfish! Say what you want about them, but, the state has done a great job with Southwest Colorado. We have both warm and cold water fisheries and a great balance of sport fish and native fish. If you scroll down the pages here you'll see that I've been on these waters a lot in the past months and I must say it's been really nice.

Morning at Pastorius

I got up early and zoomed out to Pastorius before work. The lake is getting very full, about half the boatramp under water. I didn't get a bite! Actually I take that back, I felt one thump on an "Uncle Milty" and that was it. I fished all over the lake. The Osprey was unimpressed and showed me how it is done, hooking up on his first cast/dive. Well, like most days when the bite is off, I'm happy with this picture of some American Coots, Fulica americana. None of my sportsmen friends ever have anything nice to say about Coots, but they're on the cast of characters in most lakes in our area. They dive, they swim like Michael Phelps, and they'll even take goods from other birds. They seem to do well, eat well and seem content with their place amongst the majestic Osprey and Eagles. No sense stressing out trying to keep up with the Grebes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kokanee - Sustainable wild salmon in our back yard!

Today I had the pleasure of chatting with Jim White, an aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who manages the fish in Vallecito, Lemon, Pastorius, and other local lakes. Jim's a helluva nice guy and had an abundance of great information. It was difficult to keep the conversation focused on the matter at hand: Kokanee Salmon.

The Kokanee Salmon is a landlocked version of the Sockeye Salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka. They exist naturally in lakes on the West coast, where at some point or another they were likely trapped in lakes by a landslide, earthquake or some other naturally occurring damming of a river. They travel in large schools feeding on Zooplankton, who in turn feed on Phytoplankton, who feed on sunlight and nutrients in the water. Kokanee are pretty close to the bottom of the food chain, and they taste like it... delicious!

As Mr. White explained, Vallecito is a great place for Kokanee because of the abundance of food available to them. The shallows breed the plankton that feed the Kokes. During the recent survey, approximately 21% of the fish netted were Kokanee, from an average of 8%. There will be Kokanee stocked in Lake Nighthorse in Durango. Dinnertime!

I had once been told by someone, somewhere, that Kokanee can not reproduce naturally in our lakes. I was very pleased to learn today that this is not true and there are self sustaining populations of Kokanee right here in SW Colorado. Lemon and Williams Creek Reservoirs are not routinely stocked with Kokanee, and haven't been for years, but both lakes have fed me Salmon dinner recently. Vallecito, with its abundance of other fish species (many of them predatory), is routinely stocked to help the naturally reproducing population. In Lemon Reservoir the steep and deep nature of the lake doesn't produce as much food and the Kokes are smaller on average than at other area lakes, but they are delicious nonetheless. I asked Jim what was the largest Kokanee he's ever seen in Vallecito and he reported 21 to 22" but added that this isn't necessarily a good indicator of school health in these lakes, showing that there might not be a lot of competition for the available food.

This process of learning to catch this abundant and sustainable fish has been fun. I'll be frank, they're not all that exciting to catch. They certainly won't give you the fight a trout, bass, or pike will, but it's still fishing! Trolling can be boring, sure, but it's a great time to catch up on thinking... or drinking! Like catching Pike? Not a problem, Kokanee and Pike coexist just fine together, preferring different water depths. As our conversation shifted away to Bluegill, Walleye and Bass I was left thinking about this wonderful resource we have right in our backyard. As relatively short lived plankton eaters, Kokanee do not concentrate mercury like an old Pike or Walleye. They've shown that they can reproduce naturally and in large numbers in lakes such as Williams Creek and are a great food source for at least one top predator, US. In a world where more and more fish from the seafood counter are on threatened or endangered lists, this is a tasty and environmentally friendly way to eat very tasty and healthy fish. I'd encourage any of you to give it a shot, learn the freakish rituals necessary to target Kokanee and try a few over the fire. Eat just one and you'll be hooked (pun intended.)

Williams Creek Reservoir

We didn't have a lot of time out there as we waited out storms most of the time, but the little fishing we did resulted in some really nice fish, beautiful cuts, cutbows, rainbows, and big brookies were having a feeding frenzy (as were the swallows) from some sort of buglife hatching between storms. It was lights out and then after the storms when the skies cleared... nothing! That's when I took the boat out and got us Kokanee for dinner. Thanks to the plethora of info I've found online and some chats with the good folks on the Western Slope Anglers forum, I feel like I can catch those shiny lil' freaks any time I want now. In my haste I almost forgot to mention what was working. Silver Kastmaster, 1/8oz size. I caught a few on big bead head nymphs in the muddy water along the edge with my trusty little flyrod. It is getting its brookie workout early this year. Kokanee were biting an orange wedding ring behind some flashers. I shortened the leader from flashers to wedding ring by about 2 feet making it 18" or so.. I did it because I made a snarl of leader in my wedding ring box, but it works. I noticed a few times that I would go slow slow slow and then suddently speed up to do a turn and once even when I went to shore to pick up Lis. Right on the speedup they'd whack it. That's why they tell you to do S turns but this speedup was much more abrupt and severe and triggered a strike every time. Oh yeah, don't forget your Anise Soaked Shoepeg Corn! I took the boat to the rip rap and hopped out to check out the dam. Dam! that's a neat spillway. I ran back to the boat quickly because I had images of it floating past and down the spillway. It looks like it would be a fun ride, but the hole at the bottom might not let go of ya. I saw some neat Osprey action and some realy beautiful views. I like it there.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pastorius Fishing Report

Pastorius is filling up! The water is up to the end of the concrete on the boat ramp and still coming in strong for now. It's nice to see the reservoirs filling up. We headed out around 1:30pm (Great fishing time, I know) after making calls about outboard motors for the lil alumipig. We found a 10 horse that seems to be in good shape but needs work that is sort of above my level of expertise (as is opening a can of beans.) Pastorius was fishing slow at first and then lit up on fire with fish on kastmasters and Uncle Milty streamers thrown with my little flyrod. Mostly stockers but whatever they did this year, the stockers are healthy looking with fins intact and fight like banshees. It wasn't a hard fishing day, we got chased off by a mean hailstorm at first and didn't get on the water till about 4. Good times, good times.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hopefully we'll see this stuff in lakes some day...

Maybe someday it'll be possible to "wash" the mercury out of a lake...

Vallecito Report

We decided since we dished out the cash to the Pine River Irrigation District for a permit to use a lake that is full of fish that Parks and Wildlife stocks, we might as well use the damn thing. Feel free to comment on the Bureau of Rec or PRID below... We ended up camping up in the burn area because there was nowhere open to camp on the lake. We did find some stellar places to camp nearby, I won't publish them here directly, but if you'd like to know, drop me a line.

The fishing was excellent. We caught several nice Rainbows, some really big, a couple browns, some Kokanee and 1 Smallmouth Bass. What a gorgeous fishery! I applaud the great work the DOW has done with this lake since the fires and I'm happy to say it's one of the best places to fish in the area. Some of the downsides of the lake include the fee to use it, no beaching of boats allowed, and the mish mash of management and general ill feeling from the locals toward the management situation... I was and am hesitant to write about what is really a gut feeling of unfriendliness but I think next year I'll spend my $50 on a New Mexico fishing license and fish Navajo.

Like a good looking lady with a bad personality...

Hope the PRID doesn't make a new rule making Osprey pay a "Nest Fee"


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This is so damn cool...

This guy must have had a camera on his downrigger. Very interesting view of Kokanee Salmon following and hitting a lure. It's very interesting to observe fish behavior from this vantage point.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Vallecito Kokes and How To Kill A Sunnie

One of the hardest things about Vallecito is deciding how you're going to fish and what you're going to catch. It is a world class fishery for so many different species that you really have to focus on what it is you're trying to haul in. We were after Kokanee Salmon, however, we ended up stopped at a few places, jigging, tossing soft baits and trying a few crank baits in hope for big trout or smallmouth bass. Once we found the Kokes we hooked up a few nice ones (A nice Kokanee is 14" long, 18" is a pig) which we'll be enjoying for dinner. On the west side around the red cliffs area I caught a nice rainbow and saw another that was huge. I need to revisit that spot (which can be fished from shore) again soon. For the Kokes we used the same kinda rig as before, and we bought some flashers at Vallecito that are locally made, imagine that!

In other news... I've been wanting to eat a few Bluegill out of Pastorius. I grew up catching them but never brought them to the plate so I'd kinda like to try. I was thinking that it'd be hard to whack a fish like this over the head like you can easily do with large trout, or swiftly break its neck like you can with small trout or salmon... So I looked it up. Essentially, according to what I read after a quick Google search, I'm a big sissy for asking the question at all, but I still want to know. Call me a pinko commie whatever, but I don't really like things that I kill and eat to suffer any longer than they have to. I've seen what Osprey do to fish, it's horrific and beautiful, but I like to think of the fish I catch as the "lucky ones" who get a swift death compared to the gruesome agony of being and Osprey's dinner (I wish PETA would start hassling Ospreys instead of Restaurants that serve Foie Gras.)

So nail me up, I wanna kill my Sunnies humanely you cruel bunch of sadistic hillbillies! Any ideas?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lemon Reservoir Kokanee

We've spent the time since the last post camped at Miller Creek at Lemon Reservoir. We normally avoid campgrounds like the plague... We don't have any neighbors at home, so camping at a campground isn't like "getting away from it all" it's more like "getting close to it all" That being said, we had some nice neighbors and it is really the only place we could camp and have our boat pulled up to camp. We caught plenty of Kokanee and ate them, but they were pretty damn small. I don't know if there are bigger kokes in there that we're missing, but we're going to go try elsewhere and see what we can come up with. I tried without the corn and with the corn, with the corn works better. Why fish that eat mostly zooplankton would enjoy anise scented corn, I'll never know. We fished at the inlet for the bigger browns but just caught a mushback stocker. A weekend on the lake is better than a weekend on the sofa. Edit: After speaking with aquatic biologist Jim White, I learned that Lemon's Kokanee are naturally reproducing, and lack the abundance of zooplankton found in other lakes because of the reservoir's lack of shallows. I think that means we need to go catch more so the average size can increase!

Friday, May 4, 2012


We spent last evening and night at Lemon Reservoir chasing the Kokes. We finally got them figured out, using a bit of weight, some flashers, and a lure called a "wedding ring" tipped with anise soaked shoepeg corn. While chanting and burning incense, I boiled some star anise and let it reduce a bit then soaked a can of corn in the solution add an eye of newt, and your corn is ready. Seems to do the trick, and has a nice anisey smell. Are the flashers necessary? The corn? The scent!??!? It's kind of a ridiculous set of rituals and in the future I'll try to test and see if they're necessary. A guy who lives near the lake chatted with us today and said he does just fine with just a wedding ring... He also reported catching a 24" Brown near the inlet. Last night the kokes were biting like crazy and I was having a helluva time trying to get them in the boat. Every time I'd get them near the boat *bink* and they'd pop off and swim away.

This morning I tried to test theory that I developed yesterday... The theory goes like this "Kokanee won't bite until you have both hands occupied doing something else." You can watch the rod all day and nothing, then look away and try to make a sandwich and boom, mustard hands on the rod. That sounds kinda dirty. Anyyyyyway.... It proved true, as soon as I had both hands occupied the fish started slammin away. We're going back for more and will report what we find. Edit: Yeah, all the stuff is necessary... Well.. You can catch them here and there without it but they're not really that fun to catch so the object is figure out how many you wanna eat that night, and catch them as quickly as possible. After that you can go fish for browns and have fun.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jackson Lake (Mancos State Park)

It was nice going to a state park with a legal boat, for once. After a quick ANS inspection, we launched the boat on the very nice boat ramp. Lisa caught a stocker on the first cast. We caught only stocker Rainbows. A fish I caught near the rip-rap looked like last year's, nice fins and a real helluva fight. We were after Perch so we released all Rainbows. I need to find out if there is anything else in there, it's really no fun catching stocker Rainbows, we could be in Iowa doing that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


We went and did a few laps around Pastorius since the La Plata was moving to quick to fish. The fishing was very slow and then all the sudden picked up. I was using my little stream rod and having a blast. We caught trout including a few 16"ers a couple bass and a handful of sunnies. They were taking kastmasters and green wooly buggers.

60 Cfs is too high for La Plata River

Maybe you could catch a fish, I can't. It was running too high still and very very fast.