The winter fishing on the Arkansas River in Bighorn Sheep Canyon has been excellent, thanks to unseasonably warm weather through most of January and February. And though 2/19 finds us headed into a cooling trend, the prolonged warmth has had a pronounced impact on the fish and the aquatic entomology, driving fish metabolisms and bug maturation in a way that is unlikely to reverse itself. And though we don't anticipate strong surface activity until mid- to late March, subsurface feeding on midges, small mayfly nymphs, and caddis larvae has been very consistent. Leading imitations of these bugs with a stonefly or attractor nymph has been the predominant approach, though success is also strongly correlated with fishing the right water and presenting at sufficient depth. With the longer days and higher angle of the sun, we are moving into the period of early spring when fish become less impacted by water temperature and more likely to disperse from winter water and into those lanes of half speed current with significant bottom structure. This is true in the Big Bend area above Salida and above Browns Canyon, in addition to the 40 miles of Bighorn Sheep Canyon between Salida and Canon City.
Clear Creek Reservoir
This 400 acre reservoir is located between Buena Vista and Leadville and is a consistently good ice fishing lake. It is completely frozen over at this time with 16 plus inches of ice. Fishing activity has been concentrated near the boat ramp and fishing for rainbow trout has been good using mealworms and power bait. Kokanee catch has been fair using attractors and jigs. For updated fishing reports and ice conditions, contact the CPW Salida Area Office (719-530-5520).
Boats Ramp Closed to boating until March 15. The lakes will be closed to all trailered boats, and only open for hand launching. Fishing is doing really well around the Martin Inlet, and the West Beach area. Angler's are pulling in trout, no reports of Northern Pike as of yet but it should be picking up soon. Stop by the visitor center to let staff know how the fishing is, or to show off an impressive catch!
The lake is at 621 surface acres. Trout fishing was a bit slow this past week. The trout that are being caught are biting on power bait and homemade dough bait. We also had some trout caught on kastmaster lures.
Fishing seems to be picking up at Elkhead. Anglers are reporting catching pike and crappie. Ice varies on the lake and there are more gray spots showing everyday. As always use extreme caution when on the ice.
Harvey Gap Reservoir
Fishing has slowed and little activity has been reported. The ice is around 4 inches thick with areas of thinner ice existing. There is open water at the inlet, around the edges and at the north end. Always use caution when fishing on the ice and be sure to fish with a buddy. Ice thicknesses vary across the reservoir as a whole, and can vary significantly even a few yards away. Ice rescue stations are located at popular areas around the lake, but nothing can provide for your safety like taking proper precautions and planning and preparing for the unexpected. Recommended items to bring along are ice awls, a life jacket, rope and a fishing buddy.
Highline Lake/Mack Mesa
Both Mack Mesa Lake and Highline Lake have open water, and today is a great day to go bank fishing! Mack Mesa was stocked last week with 1,000 rainbows, and they are biting. Both Highline Lake and Mack Mesa Lake were stocked with 2,400 trout last fall. We have nightcrawlers for sale in the Visitor Center again. They are fresh, wriggly and ready to entice those rainbows! A recent Mack Mesa fisherman caught a 6 lb catfish and filled his limit and then caught-and-released nice-sized rainbows all afternoon. What a great way to spend the day! If you catch a fish and would like your photo posted on our Big Fish Board, just stop by the Visitor Center or track down a Ranger, and we'll take your photo and post it! Stop by the Visitor Center and take a look at what others have caught. We have a huge variety of Power Bait in the Visitor Center, and now we have fresh nightcrawlers for $3 for a bucket of 18. You can purchase your 2015 fishing licenses on your way to the lakes, beginning March 11, 2015. You can also purchase 1 to 3 day fishing licenses for 2014. Just stop by the Visitor Center! Highline Lake is still closed to boating for the season, but it looks like March 1 will be the opening date! Mack Mesa is open for boating with hand-powered or electric motors ONLY.
The water conditions are clear but cold. Better conditions are to be found upstream and the main source of food is midges. The overall rating is 3 out of 10. As fall winds down and winter settles in, the lower Frying pan begins to taper off. The better fishing is certainly up higher.
Lower Roaring Fork (Carbondale to Glenwood)
The water flow is at 463 cfs in Glenwood Springs. The water is clear with lower water conditions. The overall rating is 7 out of 10. The food sources present are Midges, Stoneflies, Huevos, and Baetis nymphs. This is perfect conditions with great clarity. If anything, flows are on the high-side for this time of year due to the wet weather we had in August and September. Floating anglers in particular should focus on fishing the deeper slots, seams and pools as the fish are no longer holding tight up against the banks. Ditch the streamers and dries for now, as it's all about nymphing in general. Shallow and heavy nymph rigs fished in medium depths at a light/moderate river speed are best under the clouds. This is where stoneflies and attractor patterns shine! During bright, sunny days the opposite holds true; fish the depths with a longer and heavier nymph rig consisting of the more subtle, egg and midge combinations. Wading anglers should hit the following areas: Gianettis, Satank, Burry's, Airport, 3Mile, Veltus, and 7th Street.
The water clarity is clear and the main food sources seem to still be Midges and Psuedos. The overall rating is 5 out of 10. It's colder down here and doesn't receive as much sunshine as the upper river. Because of that, fishing pressure is also lighter. Hardcore types will do well if you're layered-up. Expect to do a little post-holing. Pay attention to riseforms to determine which bug, and more importantly, which stage of the life cycle (emergers, adults) the fish are most keyed in to. When you are seeing the backs of the fish, think emergers underneath the surface film. When there are noses poking through the surface, think adults. If solitude is what you're after, fish away from the dam.
Middle Roaring Fork (Basalt downstream to Carbondale)
The water flow is sitting at 292 cfs in Basalt the water conditions are clear and ideal for this time of year. Ideally, the best fishing days always follow the warmest overnight temps. Ice and slush can be present on bitter cold days when temps fall into the low teens and below. The overall rating is 6 out of 10. The food sources present are Midges, Stoneflies, and Huevos. Sick of fishing tailwaters for lethargic fish? This is one of the few freestone rivers in the Rockies that fishes right on through the winter! Truth be told, this is the best (most consistant) winter fishing on the entire Roaring Fork due in large part to the warm water of the Fryingpan spilling into the river. There's no need to get out there at the crack of dawn, as the best fishing has been during the afternoons and evenings. The rainbows are still focusing on eggs for the most part, but as get deeper into December you can't rely on the egg as much as you did in October and November. Stoneflies (both large and small) really start to fish well this month as the brown trout spawn comes to a close and we're still prior to the heavy midge hatches of late winter.
The water flow is 126cfs with a water clarity that is clear and low (ideal winter flows). The overall rating is 7 out of 10. Hatches are consisting of primarily midges. Best dry fly activity has been midday, anywhere from 10:30am - 3pm. The streamer bite has been fairly decent and obviously the nymph fishing is solid all day long. The Fryingpan is a true pleasure to fish in the winter, and December offers up fine midge hatches, light crowds, and big fish. Nymphing is the name of the game until later in the afternoon, but you should always be prepared for anything! Streamer fishing can be quite productive on the Fryingpan in November barring the temps. On truly cold days, you'll still be better off to nymph fish, as your fly line will freeze up your rod guides stripping streamers or dries. Carry a palate of colors in black, white and rust. Cover a lot of water while throwing these big bites, and vary your retrieve until you find that magic combination!
Upper Roaring Fork (Aspen downstream to Basalt)
The water flow is 126 cfs below Maroon Creek (Woody Creek Canyon) the clarity of the water is clear and low with variable ice/shush conditions. The overall rating is 6 out of 10. It's time to be on the upper Roaring Fork! Rainbows have the feed bag on and the majority of the browns are now post spawn. Fishing pressure is low up here despite the hot afternoon and evening fishing. The food sources present are Midges, Huevos, and Stoneflies. Midges and stoneflies are accounting for the majority of fish caught in the morning hours, with eggs leading the charge during the afternoons and evenings. The fish are back to holding in any of the deeper pools, pockets and seams. In a sense, this makes finding the fish fairly easy.
Rifle Gap Reservoir
The ice varies from 5 to 10 inches throughout the lake. There is open water around the edges and open water at the east inlet. The open water along the shores increases in the afternoons. Always use caution when fishing on the ice and be sure to fish with a buddy. Ice fishing on the lake can be tricky here at Rifle Gap. Ice thicknesses vary across the reservoir as a whole, and can vary significantly even a few yards away. Ice rescue stations are located at popular areas around the lake, but nothing can provide for your safety like taking proper precautions and planning and preparing for the unexpected. Recommended items to bring along are ice awls, a life jacket, rope and a fishing buddy. Fishing has started to slow, with the west end producing better than the east end. Trout have been active throughout the lake.
Rainbow and cutthroat trout are found in East Rifle Creek which flows through Rifle Falls. Fish up to 19 inches long have been taken, with 6-9 inch fish being the average size. Brown and Black flies or spinners work the best. Bait, except for live fish, can be used.
Fishing is picking up and we are seeing some fat 16"-17" Rainbows being pulled through the ice. Chartreuse jigs and blue/silver Kastmasters seem to be hitting best. The inlet and Keystone Day Use Area are bringing in the majority of the fish, while Morrison Cove and the marina have been slow. See the Ice Conditions section for updated ice info. The responsible harvest of pike at Stagecoach is encouraged. County Road 18 to the Tailwater is closed through March. Anglers wishing to fish the Tailwater can park in the designated area next to the Entrance Station and walk, ski or bike down. Minimum ice thickness is 14" across the reservoir. The inlet has approximately 20" of ice. The ice thickness varies across the reservoir. There is 6-8" of crusted snow on top. As always, use caution at all times when ice fishing. For additional updates along with the latest ice report look us up on Facebook. For current flows p lease visit the USGS website .
There is quite a bit of open water on the river and some anglers are reporting catching browns and a few pike out of the Yampa. Use extreme caution when around the river ice.