I spoke with a Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist who informed me of a tiger that was sampled during a study at Lower Big Creek Lake (LBCL). The fish that was sampled would have shattered the current state record, and was in excess of 45 pounds.That is a trophy muskie anywhere, let alone a tiger in Colorado.
LBCL in my opinion is the best trophy tiger fishery that we have in Colorado. The prime months to be fishing LBCL is late June through mid September. This is a forage rich lake that has great structure to fish. This lake has many characteristics of muskie lakes you might find in Minnesota or Canada. Weeds are the primary habitat with the occasional sunken tree or beaver house. Tigers were stocked in this lake because of the population of suckers in it. With suckers being the primary forage in this lake, you want to stick with natural colored lures, your blacks, browns, and greys. Along with suckers there are lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and arctic grayling. So all of these fish could potentially be forage for a giant tiger.
This is one of the few lakes in Colorado that I have fished for tigers that you can approach with big baits like you would if you were fishing for muskies in other parts of the country. Now for those of you who are approaching these fish from the shore, LBCL can be one of the more difficult lakes to chase tigers without a boat. That doesn't mean it can't be done, you just have to be extremely stealthy in your approach. Since this a weedy lake often times tigers will tuck in shallow because they have such good cover. Wade the shorelines slowly and work your lures over the weeds and in weed pockets. I have three presentations that I have found to be most effective from the shore. The first bait I would choose is a 4-6 inch suspending minnow bait like a husky jerk or a rogue. These lures are not weedless at all, so casting accuracy is extremely important. You want to work these lures through open lanes in the weeds. I like pausing them alot to give fish a chance to locate them so they can ambush them. One of my other favorite techniques is a walk the dog style topwater bait like a big Zara Spook. This is a great presentation for tigers as they seem to find that side to side action irresistable. You can work these baits fast or slow, I like hovering them, keeping the bait moving side to side and less movement forward. Another great shoreline presentation is large soft plastics, essentially jumbo versions of your bass style soft plastics. Large tube jigs, swimbaits, and soft jerkbaits. For LBCL you want to rig them as weedless as possible because these are the lures you can use to really dissect the cover.I like rigging them Texas style or completely weightless. You want to cast these into the weeds and work them slowly, this is typically a great finesse approach and can be extremely effective in high sun situtations.
If you are able to see these fish before you cast to them, be patient, sight fishing can be either extremely frustrating or really rewarding. If you aren't getting any kind response from the fish you are seeing first, let them be and target fish that you can't see. Sight fishing can be effective, but more often then not these fish are not feeding.
Now for those you who are fortunate enough to have a boat to chase these fish you are in for a great experience. When fishing out of a boat or even from shore for that matter, it is key to be on the lake prior to the sunrise if at all possible. The morning and the evening is the most predictable time to hit these fish during their feeding window. This lake has awesome weed beds that extend out into deeper water. Deep weeds allow to you work structure at different depths. My lure presentation does not differ too much out of a boat. I do however like to fish a little bit bigger size of lures out of a boat when I am working the deeper weeds. As my day progresses I like to work from the shallower weeds in the morning, to deeper weeds as the sun gets higher and once it gets later in the afternoon towards the evening hours I will slide in shallow again.
Large spinnerbaits are a fantastic approach to the weeds as they fish virtually weedless and can be fished at any number of depths. I will also throw tradtional muskie style topwater lures like a Topraider or Pacemaker for my prop baits and any walk the dog bait bait between 5 and 8 inches. The key to fishing lures like this is casting accuracy and your ability to read the fish's moods. If you are not getting much action on these baits you need to switch to something like a large minnow bait or swimbait. Often times with these fish you are trying to trigger a reaction strike, so baits worked quickly and erratically tend to wake these fish up.
The last presentation category I would like to cover is glide baits. Out here in Colorado we seldomly see true musky baits in our stores, a glide bait is a sub-surface walk the dog style bait. These baits can be worked at a quick pace and trigger a reaction strike or it can be fished slowly and force fish into a finesse strike. My favorites in this style are hell hounds, manta's, or phantoms. I have seen ten inch glide baits catch tigers on LBCL, so don't be shy with your lure size here either. Use the same approach for gliders that would with the other baits, work structure and pockets.
Some of the tactics I covered require some pretty hefty gear. If you don't have any tradional muskie gear, some of your heavier bass tackle should be good enough for now. But understand that you will get more and more addicted to this kind of fishing and eventually you will want to get some muskie specific tackle. If you are looking at purchasing musky tackle, Rollie and Helen's Musky Shop is a great place to look. They have an incredible online inventory and are great to talk to on the phone to help you get set up. Their website is www.muskyshop.com.
I hope that this break down of LBCL helps you reach your goal of consistently catching tiger muskies in Colorado. Please remember that these fish are not a renewable resource and that catch and release is imperative if we want to preserve these fisheries. Fiberglass replicas are a great way to go if you want your trophy on the wall so please think twice before keeping these incredible fish.
If anyone has any questions about this content please feel free to contact me.I will be dissecting Evergreen Lake next, so stay tuned.
Catch, photo, and release!