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Thread: 2018 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    130

    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
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    11

    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
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    130

    Default

    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
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    130

    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
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    130

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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
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    130

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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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