Reservoir fishing abounds in Southwest Colorado

Thursday, July 19, 2018 4:08 PM
Samantha Brow of Durango caught this and other nice rainbows at Groundhog Reservoir. She said she used a midge and sinking line to catch the rainbows.

Durango resident Samantha Brow is an avid high-country creek angler, but she tried her skills at Groundhog Reservoir in western Colorado on July 1 and was happy that she did.

“We paddled onto the lake and got into some really big fish, it was a blast,” Brow said.

But you don’t need a boat to fish any of the dozens of reservoirs in southwest Colorado which are stocked throughout the summer, according to a news release from Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Most reservoirs receive a good supply of rainbow trout, and several lakes also offer a menu of warm-water fish.

“We have a big variety of fishing opportunities in this area of Colorado that anglers should check out,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southwest Region.

Mancos State Park is one of them.

But because of a high fire risk in June, officials closed portions of the park to hiking and camping that are adjacent to the San Juan National Forest, which was under Stage 2 fire restrictions.

The park plans to reopen the closed facilities next week. Currently, anglers are allowed only at the Jackson Gulch Reservoir dam and on the shore 75 yards on each side of the dam.

The partial closure involves campsites 25-32. Park staff plan to clean up sites early next week and reopen by Wednesday, said park manager Scot Elder.

Meanwhile, the fishing’s been good, Elder said, although the water level is low.

CPW wildlife managers are encouraging more anglers to try their luck at reservoirs this year because many of Southwest Colorado’s rivers are flowing low and water temperatures are much higher than normal. Those conditions can be stressful for wild trout. When the water in rivers and streams nudges up above 70 degrees, anglers are asked to stop fishing for the day, CPW said.

But in reservoirs there is little concern about water temperature, Alves said. If the water is too warm for fish, they can just go deeper. Also, anglers who catch fish in reservoirs can keep them and enjoy them in a good meal, Alves said.

“A lot of stream anglers practice catch-and-release, but that’s not necessary in many of Colorado’s reservoirs. Often, trout stocked in reservoirs are raised in a hatchery to a ‘catchable’ size. We want people to catch them and eat them.”

While rainbow trout are stocked in most reservoirs in Southwest Colorado there are also unique fishing opportunities. At Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison anglers can pursue kokanee salmon and lake trout. At Crawford State Park you’ll find trout, largemouth bass, perch and the occasional northern pike.

At Nighthorse Reservoir near Durango, anglers are making nice catches of brown trout, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. Vallecito Reservoir is a great place to escape the heat and provides anglers a smorgasbord of choices. Fish species include: smallmouth bass, walleye, Northern pike, kokanee, brook, brown and rainbow trout.

Anglers who still crave river fishing should plan to fish early in the day when water is cool, the CPW press release said. Anglers may also hike to higher streams where water temperature probably won’t be an issue.

Anglers wanting to explore what Southwest Colorado offers can find information using CPW’s fishing atlas. Anglers can find the atlas and much more online at CPW’s fishing page.

“This will be a good year for anglers to try some new waters throughout the state,” Alves said.

And what did Samantha Brow use to catch 14-inch rainbows at Groundhog Reservoir? Following some good advice from some local Durango fly shops, she used a midge and sinking line.