April 22, 2005

Now through late May is an ideal time to fish for big lake trout in Blue Mesa Reservoir. And by fishing at this time of year, anglers can help to maintain a delicate biological balance in the reservoir.

Lake trout – also known as mackinaw – are now feeding in shallow water at the reservoir and are easier to catch now than at any time of the year, explained Dan Brauch, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) in Gunnison. As the water warms in late spring the fish descend to deep waters and are difficult to catch.

Anglers can keep eight lake trout of any size - and there is a large population between 20 inches and about 35 inches in size.

The lake trout population is strong in the reservoir – perhaps too strong, Brauch said DOW biologists are concerned that lake trout - which feed on kokanee - are causing a decline in the population of the salmon species. This has led to a shortage of kokanee available to stock in
other Colorado reservoirs.

“We do not have enough kokanee this year to meet our needs,” Brauch said. “And in fact we are about three million fish short.”

Consequently, the DOW would like to see anglers increase their harvest of lake trout.

“We know that there is significant predation of kokanee by lake trout,” Brauch said. “We also know that lake trout are reproducing on their own. So we need to maintain the pressure on lake trout.”

Blue Mesa is the best waterway in the state for production of kokanee. The reservoir produces large quantities of daphnia, a type of zooplankton which is the preferred food for the salmon. After three to five years of life in the reservoir, the kokanee swim 20 miles upstream to the Roaring Judy fish hatchery where their eggs are gathered by DOW personnel and volunteers. The eggs are incubated and hatched by the DOW and are used to sustain kokanee populations in Blue Mesa and other reservoirs throughout Colorado.

Lake trout are large and voracious fish and were last stocked in Blue Mesa in 1992.

The biggest fish ever taken in Blue Mesa was a lake trout measuring 42 inches long and weighing almost 47 pounds. Anglers need to be outfitted properly to catch large fish. Brauch suggests using tube jigs tipped with sucker meat, whole suckers or large, flashy lures. Brauch suggests contacting bait and tackle shops in the Montrose and Gunnison areas to learn what type of bait or lure is working best.

Blue Mesa Reservoir is located in south central Colorado, about 20 miles east of Montrose and about 10 miles west of Gunnison on U.S. Highway 50.

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