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Lake: Horsetooth Reservoir
Fish: Walleye

When are the fish going to grow?

Post By: Ptarmigan      Posted: 7/13/2007 2:32:48 PM     Points: 113    
Seems like I have been catching the same bunch of fish for about 3 years now. Gone are the days of the skinny gar like walleye, they all seem fat and healthy now. However, I just keep catching every 15 to 17 1/2 " fish in the lake! Seems like the year class would be out there for a few fillet fish to take home???

Anyone catching any legal eyes? I had one the other day that if I streched it with pliers a bit would have made it but its still swimming. :)
 Reply by: Fishful Thinker      Posted: 7/14/2007 10:37:29 AM     Points: 12812
You eluded to why there are few keepers in the lake: the vast majority are deep fried at 17.997" in length - and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Recruitment is good (as you also noted) for walleyes, but not so good for baitfish, which is obviously not a good long-term thing. The DOW has tried hard to keep bait fish in the lake, but there are a lot of teeth in the system and not a lot of cover for the forage. There are keepers, (and some genuine bigguns, too) and to catch them you may have to abandon the little guys you are catching by the ton in favor of fishing for one or two big bites. Fish much shallower, much deeper, or at night. Try bigger baits. Employ some not so traditional presentations. In my experience, you can often jig up dinks all day long, but to get a big one you have to do something that everyone else isn't doing. They didn't escape the Fry Daddy at 17.997" by being dumb. CL
 Reply by: Ptarmigan      Posted: 7/16/2007 5:55:15 PM     Points: 113
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Good advise Chad... I am a catch and release guy for the most part but am not afraid to admit the want for the occasional walleye fillet. I enjoy just "having my string pulled" to quote a certain bass pro :) but will take your advise and change up my tactics to see what's out there.
 Reply by: Fishful Thinker      Posted: 7/18/2007 8:15:08 AM     Points: 12812
Walleyes drive a lot of people insane! The DOW would like to see some of the 'eyes harvested to maintain predator/prey balance. Try running medium diving crankbaits, like a Flicker Shad, in reds or oranges around the mudlines just as they form. Or try a 1/2 oz Rat-L-Trap on the windiest banks. CL
 Reply by: EyeHunter27      Posted: 7/19/2007 10:05:54 AM     Points: 131
Do you really think you only catch small ones because the bigger ones are being taken out of the system? Maybe once they reach that 18" mark they move out deeper and chase different forage? They have to compete with so many smallmouth as well, I think taking some of the smallies out of the system would help the eyes a lot. There just isn't enough forage for all the mouths in there.
 Reply by: RUSSKIE      Posted: 7/19/2007 11:03:58 AM     Points: 45
I truely believe that the forage is the problem with the walleye in the tooth not growing as big. A big lake like that should produce some fatter fish, but the shad have nowhere to hide and the smaillies just feed non stop. If you compare this lake to other lakes like Glendo, Lonetree, Boyd or even Carter......they have good cover and plentiful bait fish. When you catch a wally out of Glendo, they are very healthy. An 18" eye in Glendo probably weighs a 1/2lb more than the same fish at horsetooth (give or take a few onces) Same goes for Boyd and Lonetree, although these bodies of water are smailler and maybe easier to find fish. But make no mistake about the tooth.........I have seen some very nice fish come out of there before and in one of the last comments a feller mentioned that you have to break the pattern and try bigger baits to catch the big fish. Less action at times but more rewarding.
 Reply by: RonnyCast      Posted: 7/19/2007 11:28:20 AM     Points: 2307
In the past I have seen Dow departments in other states drop weighted down Christmas trees in to a lake to try to create more structure and cover for booth bait fish and game fish. This might be a good idea for the Tooth. I wonder where all the smelt have gone in the Tooth. I can remember smelt being so think in the lake that during there spawn run in the inlet people could just net them with hand nets. I think the lake is also still recovering from the draw down and maybe the walleye just haven’t rebounded as quickly as the smallmouth. Also if they could manage to fill the lake all the way, the increased cover and surface area would probably help out with the bait fish situation. I think Chad is right when he says one a walleye reaches 18 inches its’ life expectancy can’t be very long. Too many boats looking for dinner.
 Reply by: EyeHunter27      Posted: 7/19/2007 11:56:00 AM     Points: 131
The smelt population crashed before the draw down if I remember right. I think once those eyes get big enough they can eat the smaller smallies, there is no lack of them. My best this year was just shy of 21" but probably weighed less than an 18" out of other places. There seems to be a good number of them though.
 Reply by: Fishful Thinker      Posted: 7/20/2007 10:23:15 AM     Points: 12812
The smelt did crash before the drawdown. The DOW has since stocked 2 kinds of shad, emerald shiners and spot tailed shiners. They began stocking them during the drawdown and continue to do so. Don't forget stocker trout as forage for mature 'eyes - and of course the crayfish. I do believe that the vast majority of the 18" fish caught are kept, leading to the abundance of 17"ers - but I also know from talking with the biologist that if that was not the case they'd all be really skinny. I think the larger 'eyes get into a completely different feeding mode/cycle than the 16" fish we usually catch. All of the really big ones (say 24" or up) I've caught or verified in the last 12 years were either on strange baits or strange locations by the normal 'Tooth walleye standards. There is a lot of good dstructure in Horsetooth making mature (read, wise) walleye's harder to locate than at some of the lakes mentioned. Think about Carter; I'm told by the biologist that something like 70% of the population is over the slot limit. When was the last time anybody had 70% of their catch on any given day be over the slot? Not often I bet - and Carter has less structure/surface area the the 'Tooth. Bottom line - the small skinny ones are always easier to catch in any system. Thats why the DOW likes to manage for numbers rather than size - so the average angler can get their line tugged. CL

 Reply by: RUSSKIE      Posted: 7/20/2007 5:05:29 PM     Points: 45
Very true that the DOW manages for numbers, but I don't always agree with some of these biologist reports and opinion either. I have heard a biologist state that Walleye will not reproduce in some of the lakes around here (Boyd, Johnstown for example). But I have fished both lakes in the early spring and have seen the Walleye spawning in the rocks.......Actually got to see eggs laid and fertilized at about 4:30am. Also have netted minnows to see what the fish were biting on and managed to net baby wally's. So, I cant say that the biologists are totally wrong is some aspects, but I seen proof otherwise.
 Reply by: Fishful Thinker      Posted: 7/25/2007 1:24:37 PM     Points: 12812
In preparation for and during the Full Moon Open bass tournament last weekend, we got a bunch of nice keeper walleyes, 18-25"ers and they were fat as pigs. They all bit at night in extremely shallow water on large (5") crawdad imitations. Funny thing is we got no under sized 'eyes, which goes to back to what I posted earlier about the mature fish having completely different feeding preferences than the 16" males most often caught.

RUSSKIE; I spoke with the DOW about your observations. They clarified that 'eyes don't reproduce efficiently enough in the lakes you mentioned to be a viable resource. Reproduction there is more of a statistcal anomoly. It sounds like you are lucky to get to witness the act! Just thought you'd like to hear their story. CL
 Reply by: Matt      Posted: 7/25/2007 9:06:54 PM     Points: 95619
Any thought as to walleye schooling in same-size/year-class groups? I know I've seen it a lot with wiper, and when I am fishing walleye I see it too, but I don't fish walleye as much.

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