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Thread: 2018 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

  1. #1
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    Default 2018 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

    Kokanee fishing has started at Blue Mesa. Since we focus on Lake Powell during April and early May (and donít like to switch back and forth between mussel contaminated Powell and mussel free Blue Mesa), I havenít yet been out on the lake but Iíll share some of the info provided by friends who are some of the better known guides on Blue Mesa.

    Winter pretty much passed us by this year and water levels will be a concern this summer. The Mesa is currently at 7482 ft, about 9 ft below last year on this day and 37 ft below last summerís high. The big concern is that the snow pack is running about 50% of last year. The Iola Basin froze this winter but the Cebolla Basin (middle) and Sapinaro Basin (dam area) did not. As a result, the trophy mackinaw fishermen have been on the water for several weeks. Guides tell me that when their mac fishermen get bored they have found the kokanee fishing to be good, with lots of healthy fish and fairly easy limits in Sapinaro.

    Mussel inspection has been open at the Lake Fork ramp (at the dam) for several weeks and current hours are 6:30 am to 4 pm daily. Inspections will open at the Elk Creek ramp on April 19, with daily hours from 6 am to 8 pm. The number for the Elk Creek Visitorís Center is 970-641-2337.

    Current conditions are mild, with lows typically in the 20s and highs in the 50s and sometimes 60s. Keep in mind this is Gunnison, one of the nationís cold spots, so conditions can deteriorate quickly. Early afternoon winds are the norm. Kokanee tackle is available at Gene Taylor Sporting Goods and several of the young dudes working at the store are experienced kokanee guides willing to share insight and strategies. I can also strongly recommend Robbie Richardson at Sport Fish Colorado for those who want a shot at a state record mac or limits of kokanees. Iíll be able to provide more detailed info once we start fishing Blue Mesa and I plan to provide regular updates throughout the summer. If you have questions, please respond here and Iíll do my best to keep readers up to date.
    Last edited by kokanee64; 06-18-2018 at 12:59 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default April 27 and 28 Good Fishing

    Did well on Fri and Sat. Found fish from surface down to 42', but mostly around 18'-26'. Pink squids did real well, but lots of hits on red and green lures and squids/planktons too. Several fat healthy fish. Looks to be a good year. Concentrated on Cebolla to Lake Fork. Glass in the morning, but wind came up in the afternoon as usual.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the update Old'n still learning. It always helps to hear what is working for others as we sometimes fall into a rut and don't think to try different things.

    One week ago today Mary and I were returning to Bullfrog at Lake Powell after 6 days fishing and boat camping up the San Juan. After decontaminating the boat and getting it ready for salmon fishing, we inspected and launched yesterday and fished Blue Mesa for the first time Friday Morning. Life is good.

    It was the usual first trip comedy of errors today. A downrigger cable with a large snap swivel somehow became misthreaded on the downrigger pulley (this appears to be impossible) and had to be cut and retied. I missed a line guide on one rod and the first fish of the day ďuntiedĒ the knot Iíd tied the day before. The gas line on the kicker appeared to be plugged into the motor but wasnít quite connected and the kicker wouldnít start even after being soundly cursed. The new lead core line insisted on creating birds nests. If you canít laugh at yourself on days like this you shouldnít be a fisherman.

    We started late this morning thinking we might have a few problems and wanting daylight to handle remedies. Air temp at Elk Creek Marina was 28F and water temp was 48F at 6 am. We needed, but didnít have, an ice scraper for the boat windshield after the boat spent the night in the slip. We fished the Bay of Chickens in the Cebolla basin and finished on the Cebolla Creek channel. Fishing was slow but we caught and released 4 or 5 small salmon in addition to those in the photo below. Every color (pink, orange, yellow and purple) produced fish in about equal numbers. Lead core, with about 40 Ė 50 ft of mono leader, produced at 2 Ė 3 colors and downriggers produced best at 17, 19 and 23 ft (when reasonable, I set my downriggers to prime numbers).

    The ten fish weighed 13 pounds total. The largest fish weighed 1.5 pounds and measured just under 16 inches. Four of the larger fillets weighed 1.5 pounds, skin on, so the two fillets on a fish run about 50% of the total mass of a kokanee salmon. The last three photos appear to me to show signs of predation by large mackinaws. The marks on these fish certainly werenít from our rubber landing net but I suppose the scratches could have been caused by fishing line during the tussle to land them. Iíd much appreciate any insight readers can provide regarding what else might have caused these marks and wounds. Iíve been hearing lately that our kokanee show signs of gill lice but I didnít see any on these fish. It is great to be fishing Blue Mesa again and tonightís dinner menu features BBQed salmon with tequila-lime marinade. Fish On.

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  4. #4
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    Default Fishing Report Thursday, May 10

    Blue Mesa remains very low and dock hands tell me they expect it to drop another 5 - 8 feet. Air temperature was 34F at the Marina and water temperature in Cebolla was 51F this morning. Every one is talking about how wonderful the weather is in Gunnison right now but afternoons are often very windy. By fishing early we are able to avoid the wind entirely.

    After slow kokanee fishing for us during last weekend's fishing tournament, fishing today was a little faster and the fish were serious fighters. This year's spawners are averaging 1.3 pounds and 15 inches in length. The fishing are fat and healthy but we are seeing gill lice on some fish. We fished in Cebolla, starting at the power line and following the channel into the Bay of Chickens. We started the early morning with down riggers set at 19 and 23 but ended the day setting at 31 and 35. Lead core line was out 2 - 4 colors, going deeper as the sun rose. Downriggers were hotter than lead core today, probably because the fish have moved a little deeper. Light pink and orange were our best colors.

    I've been thinking about how to share how good or slow the fishing is on Blue Mesa and thought I'd try the following four statistics: We fished today from 5:30 to 8:15, lines in the water. We hoped for our limit, 10 fish, for our dinner and for friends who are hosting relatives. We fished for 2.75 hours, or 165 minutes, to catch our 10 salmon so we averaged 3.6 kokanee per hour and 16.5 minutes between salmon. We also caught 2 small salmon and 6 small brown trout, all released, so for the 18 fish we caught in total, we averaged 6.5 fish per hour and we averaged a fish every 9.2 minutes. This isn't fast enough on average to keep you jumping (although we had a successful triple today that kept us busy for a while) but it isn't slow enough to get boring either. I'm guessing we may get down to a fish every 5 minutes by June. I'm also curious what the catch rate is like for other fishermen.

    Kokanee64

  5. #5
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    Blue Mesa Reservoir remains very low at 7480 ft, about 28 ft below the level one year ago. Air temp on the way to the lake was 29F this morning and the water temp in Iola was 56F. Water splashed on the transom froze this morning, as it has the past several mornings we have fished.

    Fishing this morning was slow. The past few trips we averaged about 7 minutes per fish, ranging from 5.9 to 8.3 minutes per fish. This morning we averaged 19.6 minutes per fish and we were catching too many small kokanees and trout. The average fish this morning was only 1.28 pounds, down from slightly over 1.5 pounds the past several trips. The fish-of-the-day only weighed 1.47 pounds. We have noticed several fish in recent days with evidence of attempted predation. We eventually moved from the area in front of the breakwater at the north shore ramp in Iola, which had been very hot for us until recently, to the area where Iola opens up into a basin. The fishing was better here and there were 10 - 12 boats working this area.

    There was no discernable pattern to depth or lure color. We were having better luck on lead core (3.5 - 4.5 colors) than on downriggers (23 - 43, with best results around 30ft), which seems to be consistent with slower fishing. Earlier in the morning orange and pink lures were the better performers and by midmorning a bright candy corn lure and a blue and green lure were better producers. While I didn't see any boats knocking them dead this morning, several boats were clearly out fishing us, so what was a very slow day for us may have been much better for other boats.

    Kokanee64

  6. #6
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    Fishing at Blue Mesa has been good over the past week, so fishermen planning a Holiday trip should find very good salmon and trout fishing. It appears the weather will also be cooperating. Please remember that strong winds are the norm every afternoon. Some people like to catch salmon early in the morning and after cleaning salmon and getting them on ice, go back out for browns and mackinaws until the wind makes fishing unpleasant or until nap time calls.

    Until quite recently, mornings have been cool enough to freeze splashed water on the transom. Water temperatures in Iola continue to inch upward, about four degrees in the past two weeks. As expected, salmon are moving deeper with higher water temperatures. Two weeks ago, when I started keeping more accurate catch information, fish caught on downriggers were on average 30 feet deep but most recently were at 36 feet. Earlier the downrigger set at 27 ft popped most often but lately Iíve had better luck at 31 and 37 feet. My data show fish caught on lead core were mostly 3 Ė 4 colors but more recently weíve had better success at 4 Ė 5 colors, or even deeper. Our catch data show that during the past two weeks weíve averaged a caught fish every 6.9 minutes, with most days falling in a range from 3.9 minutes per fish to 9.2 minutes between fish. Since this time includes setting lines, losing fish, catching fish, and releasing or bleeding out fish, we stay busy and we have a double or triple most days. We had one terrible day, described in the previous report, but I put it down to simply failing to find the right fishing pattern in terms of location, lure, depth, speed, etc. Some days we stumble. Today we caught a fish, on average, every 3.9 minutes and that included two episodes where downrigger fish tangled into the lead core and required a lengthy sorting out before we were fishing again. It was a blast. We were fishing where the canyon opens up into the Iola basin on the west end.

    Having accurate data about the catch for the last two weeks has led to an interesting discovery; one lure has caught nearly 50% of the salmon. While I knew my blue and white lure was doing well, I underappreciated its effectiveness. Orange has accounted for just over 25% and a candy corn colored assassin behind a rainbow dodger and a pink assassin each got 13%. Candy Corn has been coming on stronger in recent days.

    Earlier we had good luck in front of the breakwater on the south Iola shore boat ramp (which isnít open) but more recently weíve had our best luck fishing the area at the west end of the Iola basin, just as the canyon opens up into the basin. We drove to Montrose at about 10:30 am recently and counted more boats in Cebolla than Iola. Cebolla boats were fishing around the power lines, Bay of Chickens, the Cebolla channel and the Iron Works jigging area. We saw only 2 boats in Sapinero. We havenít fished either basin recently.

    Since the start of our season in early May, our salmon have averaged 1.35 pounds. Although there is some evidence that the average weight in increasing, there has been very high variability in average weight daily catches; a couple of extra small fish has a big effect on the average weight. More recently, the fish-of-the-day have been hitting 16Ē and 1.9 pounds and the average has been hitting 1.5 pounds.

    Against my better judgement Iíve included photos of blue and white lures below so there wonít be confusion about this hot lure. This started as a Rocky Mtn Tackle Hornet but I always retie lures using 25 pound leader and a #6 Gamakatsu EWG treble hook. In some cases Iíve replaced the clear beads that came with the lure with white glow-in-the-dark beads but canít say that either the clear beads or glow beads have been superior. The reason Iím hesitant to share too much lure information is because Iíve learned too often that what works for me wonít necessarily work for others and vice-versa. Small differences in leader length (12Ē or shorter for me), speed (1.1 Ė 1.3 mph) and depth can make a joke of any specific lure info I can provide. Gene Taylors in Gunny has a very good stock of koke, trout and mackinaw lures. This will be a good weekend to fish and camp at Blue Mesa. Contact me by email or phone if you are at the lake this weekend and have questions or are looking for up to date information. 970-642-0732

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  7. #7
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    Elkhunter99,

    Please contact me at mrhudson200@gmail.com. I replied to your message but think I goofed it up and don't see that it was sent.

    Kokanee64

  8. #8
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    Default June 5 Report

    Fishing at Blue Mesa remains mostly hot, especially the first hour or so after day break. And, of course, there is an occasional slower day, particularly it seems if you have guests aboard, as we experienced Sunday with new friends from the Kokanee Fishing Forum.

    This morning the air temperature was 37F and water temperature in Iola was 58F. Water temp is rising very slowly, perhaps affected by the low run-off this year. Sunday morning fishing was quite slow, averaging 10.6 minutes per fish. Monday and Tuesday were substantially better, averaging 4.0 and 5.0 minutes per fish respectively. The fishing rate was probably about the same both days but this morning's fish-of-the-day managed to tangle 3 of the 4 downrigger lines so badly the only solution involved scissors, new leaders and lots of new knots. Still, when fishing is this hot our friends and neighbors get plenty of fish, so who can complain? The last two days our fish averaged 1.45 and 1.48 pounds respectively and we caught our first 2 pound fish of the year on Monday.

    Blue beads, interspersed with white glow beads, remain the hottest lures but are rapidly being overtaken by red and white glow beads. We've elected to fish with 4 stacked DR lines the last couple of mornings and not use lead core, with the bottom lines set at 33 ft and 37 ft. The stacked lines, probably around 26 ft and 30 ft, have been hotter than the bottom lines by a factor of nearly 3 to 1, which suggests we've probably been a little too deep with our downriggers previously.

    We continue to fish the area just east of Dry Creek with great success but have noticed the guides tend to be fishing near the breakwater at the south shore boat ramp in Iola, which is now open. A slip neighbor at the marina, who loves to eat mackinaws, reports having great success in Cebolla fishing deep (65 - 85 ft) using green lures and dodgers. He showed us a photo yesterday of a 4-5 pound mac he had caught with the tail of a 6 inch koke still visible down its gullet. There is no limit on mackinaws at Blue Mesa and authorities recommend killing all macs caught.

    It is a good time to be fishing Blue Mesa.

    Kokanee64

  9. #9
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    Default June 17 Report

    Salmon fishing on Blue Mesa has been excellent for pretty much all summer, with a few slower days and a few unbelievably hot mornings. We have averaged a fish every 9.4 minutes while fishing this summer, including a couple of really slow days (19.6 and 18.6 minutes per fish) and some extremely active days (3.4 and 3.9 minutes per fish). The last time we fished, the middle of last week, we experienced pretty much average fishing, at 8.6 minutes per fish. We continue to fish the area from the Dry Creek picnic area to the western end of the Iola Basin. On our most recent trip the air temperature was up to 47F and the water temperature was 62F. The fish-of-the-day was 2 pounds and 17 inches. The average salmon is slowly increasing, up to 1.5 pounds on recent trips. We keep smaller, badly hooked fish that others might release, and this drags down our average a little.

    Keeping a record this year of fish caught has provided better insight into what color lures are working. As shown below, this bar chart shows that blue and white bead/spinner lures account for over 35% of all fish we've caught this season. Orange was the second best color earlier in the year but red and white bead/spinner lures have proven better at times. For the last 3 or 4 trips a watermelon kokanee killer trailing (15 inches) a leaf shaped watermelon dodger has caught nearly 50% of our fish.

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    Keep in mind there are serious flaws in these statistics. A statistician would tell us that when calculating odds of a random event happening, such as hooking a fish with a lure, the sampling (in this case fishing) has to be done independently. In other words, if you really want to know what lures work best, we would need (at the least) to fish every color lure at every depth for the entire fishing trip so that each color had an equal opportunity to catch a fish. In my case, when I find a color that is working really well I tend to double down, trying the same color at the original or a new depth. The other day after fishing for 45 minutes and changing out lures, I had four lines on stacked downriggers, two blue and two watermelon lures. My statistics might lead me to conclude that red and orange are less successful right now, and that seems to be the case when I've had them in the water recently. But it is also true that with mostly blue and watermelon lures in the water, most of our catch will be on those colors. Duh! It is easy to lie with statistics, and I might have done so once or twice when trying to convince a backward administrator to increase a budget, but I don't lie with statistics to myself or others about something as important as fishing.

    We like taking others out for an early morning of fishing but when we tell them we like to arrive at the marina (25 minutes from town) by 4:30 am, lots of people are able to turn down the offer. We claim there is an early morning bite, followed by much slower fishing; others say "no way" and like to start at 8 am after a good night's sleep and breakfast. The second chart below also has serious sampling and independence problems but I think it conveys an important truth about the morning bite on Blue Mesa. A website provides the local "twilight" time each day and I converted the time each fish is caught to the number of minutes after twilight (negative values are before twilight, aka, pitch black) using my Excel spreadsheet. I put the minutes after twilight in 10 minute categories, so that the 35 minute bar shows fish caught from 30 to 40 minutes after twilight. Twilight last Wednesday was 5:11 am, so this corresponds to fish caught from 5:41 to 5:51 am.

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    Why the smaller bars at the 25 and 45 minute marks? If we hook up a double or triple at the 15 minute after twilight mark, which is quite common for us when fishing is really hot, by the time we land the fish, release trout and some smaller salmon, bleed out the keepers and get them on ice, corn the hooks, reset all four lines on stacked downriggers, etc., we've used up a good chunk of the next 10 minute window with no lures in the water. This is an example of lack of independence; catching lots of fish in one 10 minute window decreases the opportunities to catch fish in the following 10 minute window. We often catch our limit and stop fishing 80 - 90 minutes after twilight, so we don't typically fish 180 minutes after twilight. But while the data are clearly affected by sampling issues and have to be taken with a grain of salt, we're convinced enough about the early bite to get us out of bed at 3:30 am.

    These are good days to be fishing Blue Mesa and 5 am is a good time to put blue and watermelon lures in the water. Good Luck.
    Last edited by kokanee64; 06-17-2018 at 09:58 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default June 22 Fishing Report

    Friday morning on the way to our boat we passed a friend who asked, "Don't you think fishing has slowed down a little?" We agreed. Fishing Friday morning was pretty good from 5 to 6 am, when we averaged a fish every 7 minutes. From 6 to 7 am we waited 12 minutes on average between fish. A few days previously the disparity was even greater; 3 minutes between fish from 5 to 6 am and 29 minutes on average between fish from 6 to 8:45 am. The lesson for us is to get out early and try to avoid tangled lines when fishing is the hottest; not always easy with doubles in the dark.

    This morning the air temperature at Never Sink was 54F and water temperature in Cebolla was 64F. The lake has dropped about 2 ft in the last two weeks and is currently 31 ft lower than one year ago. We fished the Cebolla channel this morning but noted on way back to town there were about 15 boats working the area about 1 mile down lake from Old Stevens. There we roughly 25 boats in Cebolla when we left but they were working a much larger area, primarily the Bay of Chickens and the Cebolla channel. We caught roughly half our fish on blue/white beads and half on white/glow beads, with one fish on an orange kokanee killer on lead core out 7 colors. The fish were hitting blue at 43 ft and later at 57 ft; white was best at 39 ft and later at 53 ft. We tried a usually reliable red followed by a usually reliable watermelon for the entire hour and fifty minutes of fishing without a bite on either. Our fish today averaged 1.57 pounds, the highest of the year so far, but the largest fish was only 1.68 pounds -- nice carbon copy fish. Gusty, strong winds are still the norm, starting in the late morning and continuing through the afternoon.

    If you are considering a trip to Blue Mesa over the holiday and have questions, please post them here or through a private message and I'll do my best to help make your trip more successful. I expect to post again around the 27th or 28th or so assuming we get out again by then.

  11. #11
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    Default 50' on Blue and Watermellon

    We had 2 boats going over the weekend. And we came in cold and figured it out by Saturday night. Fish were deep and picky! Nice fish with many at 17" +/-. Threw back multiple shorts say under 14" knowing there are better fish out there. But we had to work for them. Wind pushed most boats off the water by late morning. Evening bite was when we did the best in the river around Hay Stack and east. Anything to stay out of the wind! Thanks for the tips kokanee64 and open info, I'm making an order today for the next trip. I like the heavier line and treble idea. Got busted off at the net with one I wanted in the box. And most fish un-hook themselves as soon as you get them in the net or on the floor! Picture of my Saturday evening daily limit, caught over 3 hours.

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  12. #12
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    Happy to hear of your success mrpike16 and glad the wind didn't blow you away. Sounds like you were in Iola. My wife said this morning as we were heading in from Cebolla with smaller fish than yours (1.5 lb avg and largest at 1.67 lb) that she thinks the fish were bigger in Iola -- I'd have to agree given your experience.

    What a difference a few days and a location change can make for lure colors. Since you're thinking of ordering stuff for maybe another trip to BM, thought you would like to know that we started catching fish on the lure shown below and ALL of our most recent 20 fish have been on that lure. I'm using 25 lb line now cause it holds up better to plier nicks, etc. We've been catching at 43, 47, 51, 53 and 57 ft on downriggers, with 47 and 51 the more reliable depths. Before sun up I charge the glow beads and dodger w/ my lead lamp for about 20 seconds and have to work fast to keep a lure in the water. After sun up the bite slows some but the white glow beads and dodger have certainly been a pleasant surprise for us.

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    When you fish in the evening, is the bite fastest during twilight, right before dark?

    Hope you get back to the Mesa soon and teach those kokes a few more lessons. I'm guessing jigging will start in earnest in about 3 weeks.

  13. #13
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    Default June 28 Fishing Report

    Home projects demanded our attention recently and we haven't been out morning fishing since the previous report, but I hear from good sources that kokanee fishing remains excellent in both the Iola and Cebolla basins. We were at the marina about 7 pm today on a boat errand and went out on a whim even though the lake was showing pretty good whitecaps. During the higher wind periods we set up to drift through areas we wanted to fish and when the wind subsided some we motored to keep our speed around 1.3 mph. We averaged a fish every 12 minutes for about 1 hour, not as fast as the best morning fishing but exciting enough. The wind was brisk but tolerable; at least when drifting steering isn't a big chore. Good luck to those fishing Blue Mesa over the weekends around the 4th.

  14. #14
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    Default July 11 Fishing Report

    After 10 days with almost no fishing, we fished Cebolla channel at first light and did pretty well; we wrapped up our two person limit about 8 am after several lost fish. Best lures were blue/white beads, white glow beads and red/white beads and we caught fish from 63 ft to 42 ft, with the most strikes at 53ft. When fishing this deep, experience has taught us to only stack two rods on one downrigger and use one rod on the second downrigger to avoid like tangles, props, etc. Truth be told, when fishing at 50+ ft deep we do as well with only one rod per downrigger -- two rods will often outfish 3 rods, as odd as that sounds.

    We are moving into peak summer, with 4:30 am air temp at 52F and water temps approaching 70F. As a result, fish are moving deeper and fishing has slowed down a little. On the other hand, fish continue to grow and the average weight today exceeded 1.6 lb for the first time. We had several fish in the 2 lb, 17 inch range. The eggs in the females haven't shown much growth yet (no caviar for a while) but the sperm sacks in some of the males are beginning to enlarge. We've been seeing the beginnings of hook jaws and humped backs for several weeks. I wouldn't be surprised to hear right now of successful jigging for fish on the bottom in Iola. We cruised through the Iron Works today a little after 8 am when we were done with fishing and saw plenty of fish from 75 to 85 ft. It was too early in the morning to expect to see schools. I expect jigging to start soon and be hot 2 - 3 weeks from now. As part of preparing for that day, I brought a couple of reels home today so I can tie in 2 ft of yellow PowerPro line at the 80 ft mark and I'm going to check that my transducer is pointed straight down on my next trip. The next 6 weeks will be a good time to fish Blue Mesa.

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