It seems like it has been a long summer, and yet, I’m ready for summer to begin. Allow me to explain. Since Sue’s mother passed the first of May, we haven’t spent a weekend at home since. That changes this weekend. As a result, fishing has been extremely limited, at most once a week, sometimes not even that. Further, between trips to Denver, and a full time job, I’ve had precious little time to blog and work on Fish Explorer.
That looks to change, and for better or worse, I should be able to blog weekly or more once again. I also need to address the backlog of work I’ve put aside, including editing and getting up several articles that have been submitted, but put on the back burner while I dealt with personal matters.
I have one quick comment on the current “hot” topic of the week, the planned poisoning of Miramonte Reservoir next year. On the whole everyone involved in the discussions have be cordial and civil. This has allowed for an excellent exchange of views and ideas concerning management practices, ramifications of illegal stocking, and other related issues. This has not gone unnoticed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife folks who appreciate seeing honest and forthright discourse, be it agreement or not, that isn’t purely bashing the agency or those participating in the discussion.
The real reason for this blog is to share a few observations on fishing low water situations. I’ll be the first to admit that severely drawn down reservoirs such as Horseshoe and Boyd Reservoirs are depressing to look at, especially when fished for the first time since May. My first instinct is to go elsewhere as fishing has to suck. But experience tells me that isn’t necessary true.
The reality is a lot of water is gone, but the fish aren’t. In fact they are now concentrated into a small space and should be easier to catch. Should be, but not necessarily so. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the falling water also concentrates the bait fish, making it easy for top end predators to find a meal, at least at first.
Second, and most importantly, conditions have drastically changed and many anglers fail to adapt to those changes. Continuing to fish as they always have before, and lamenting “the fish just aren’t biting.” Hate to break this to you, but until the environmental conditions, water temperature, pollution, oxygen levels, etc. become too bad the fish do continue to feed. The trick, as always, is to figure out where are they are (should be easy with less water, right?) and what they are feeding on.
Last week when Sean (Fishseal) and I decided to give Horseshoe a try, I was more than dismayed to see the huge expanses of muddy shoreline and we almost went elsewhere. In some ways I wished we would have, but I noticed large schools of bait working the surface, and where there’s bait predators will be nearby. The herons along the shore enforced my desire to give it a try.
Unfortunately, the shoreline was soft, slick, gooey mud that made wading challenging. Every step you sunk ankle deep or more, and as you tried to extract one foot, the other tried to slip out from under you. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was a muddy mess, as near face plants were inevitable. And for those who’ve fished with me know my comments at the time were both frequent and, shall we say, colorful. So we didn’t stick it out very long.
However, by casting to and around the feeding bait, I did manage two fish, a small white bass and a decent channel catfish. Had the wading been better I think it would have been possible to pick up several cats on flies, as these top end feeders often move shallow to chase minnows, especially when the water temps are in the low 80’s.
This week I gave Boyd a try, and was surprised how stable the shore edge was given my experience the week prior. While my expectations were low, the presence of herons suggested bait was present, and so would the fish. My observations were correct.
When faced with a “structureless” shoreline, the key to success it to identify and fish minute differences, especially when targeting largemouth bass. I pay close attention to my graphics and the shore edge, looking for anything different. A six inch “break”, a single stick up, a bit of gravel, the old engine block holding a buoy, buoys, a bit of vegetation, change in temperature, . ... These small changes are often enough structure to hold fish. Yet, many overlook them.
By concentrating on minor features in what appears to be a featureless landscape and looking for bait I managed to have a decent evening, catching several largemouth (best 18 inches), lots of white bass (best 10 inches), numerous yellow perch (best 11 inches) and a couple crappie (best 12 inches). Cody had similar results, but also a few bluegills as he tied on a small “trout” nymph as a dropper.
The point is, dropping water levels and muddy shorelines don’t necessarily translate to poor fishing. Look for bait and subtle structure and you will likely find fish.