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Thread: 2019 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

  1. #1
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Default 2019 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

    Well, OK, so maybe not so much a fishing report as a thinking about fishing report and wishing I was fishing report.

    Last fall, 2018, the lake was at a near record low level. For those who know the lake, today in the Iola basin the lake is river channel from the Lake City bridge down nearly to the launch ramp on the south shore. We are currently at 29.77% of full pool and 82.57 feet below full pool. We had a cold winter, fortunately without a lot of -30 and -40 temps like some years, but with few thaws until recently. The lake froze early, even Sapinaro. The ice is currently nearly 30 inches thick at Elk Creek and around 12 near the dam. The young guys I talk with in Gene Taylors and ice-fishing friends around town reported good ice-fishing all winter. People are talking ice-out won't happen until mid-April, maybe late April. Elk Creek Marine tries to open May 1 but is delayed some years by ice. First payments for seasonal slip rentals are due at the end of the month.

    I guy at the Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery, where Blue Mesa salmon start their lives, told me they had been worried because of water conditions last summer and fall that the fall egg take might be low. They took 9.2 million eggs, which he characterized as "pretty decent." The upper and low records are 17.2 million and under 3 million eggs per year. He didn't say, but from hearing numbers over the year I'd guess this may be slightly above average in a year that had everyone concerned. This year's release of several million salmon fingerlings from the hatchery into the East and then Gunnison rivers hasn't yet been scheduled. They prefer that the lake is open and the sun producing plankton before releasing the fish. They also prefer a new moon because it reduces predation, which apparently can be substantial. Finally, they prefer earlier in the spring, before irrigation head-gates are opened. Several years ago a study out of CSU reported that many thousands of fingerlings were stranded in fields when they were swept into irrigation ditches. Ranchers have been good to cooperate but coordination is big job that gets harder when there are lots of gates already wide open. The people that run the hatchery and fishery at Blue Mesa must feel shell shocked at times. They have the on-going challenges of invasive mussels, gill lice (which they hope may not be as bad as feared), lake trout predation (the previous big problem) and low water levels (which result in lower oxygen levels and other problems). My hat is off to them for producing such a great fishery in such challenging circumstances.

    We have been moving snow all winter and loving it. The Gunnison drainage has a snow pack of 151% of the seven year average. We will have a good winter even if it doesn't snow again. Crested Butte, the ski resort 25 miles up the road, has had 274 inches so far this year. The snow around my house is well over 2 ft deep and our deer are struggling, eating sage that sticks through a hard crust that will support them and even me. Everyone is hopeful the lake will rise 40 to 50 feet. About 10 years ago we came off a drought period and had a good snow year; everyone was expecting a good run off. We had an average year. The explanation was that the ground water had been severely depleted and much of what should have been run off was soaked up. I'm hoping for 2 more big storms as insurance.

    Fingers crossed for lots of water, hot fishing and a safe year for everyone. Kokanee64

  2. #2
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    Feb 2019
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    Thanks for the numbers, that is a relief hearing 9.2 million eggs captured. I am guessing we are going to be late April before the ice comes off. On a normal year I always figure the 10th of April. I think a lot depends on how much wind we get in April, wind seems to take the ice off quickly. My guess is we may still have ice in the Cebolla and Lake fork arms early May. I don't remember the year, but it was in the 80s when everyone showed up for the first fishing tournament and the lake was still froze. Normally the 1st tournament is the 1st weekend in May.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2017
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    I've been wondering whether the concessionaire will be able to get the docks moved and the marina "open" before that first tournament because of ice but also maybe low water. I haven't been down the ramp for a while but it seemed to me it was a pretty good mess down there because of the low water last fall. Also, is there any ramp left? Hope we don't have to wait for more water before the ramp and marina can open. Kokanee64

  4. #4
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    Feb 2019
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    That is a very good question. I cant imagine trying to run a 120 teams out of that canyon the way it looks now. I have a slip at the Lake fork marina that doesn't open until May 15th. I am wondering if it will be open by the 15th. Warm weather this week, maybe the run off will start.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Default Lake Level Projections

    Over at Wayne's Words a guy posted a link to Dept of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation lake level projections
    https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/s...24Month_03.pdf.

    The plan projects the end of month lake elevations for Fontenelle, Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa, Navajo and Powell for the next 24 months (2019 and 2020). Here is what the plan projects for Blue Mesa over the upcoming summer. This would be fantastic, getting us up to 68% of capacity from the 30% of capacity, and 10 ft or so better than the peak last summer. Yesterday the lake was at 7437.61.



    Elevation

    February 7437.59
    March 7438.08
    April 7445.41
    May 7450.39
    June 7488.92
    July 7494.09
    August 7490.33
    September 7487.82

    I tried to create a table showing projected elevation, increase from the previous month, and cummulative change from end of February but haven't yet figured out the table function. It is worth noting that essentially no increase is expected in March, only 7 ft in April, 5 ft in May, and then 38 ft in June. These folks are projecting peak end of month elevation in July, at 56.5 ft above the end of of February (and today's) elevation.

    I'll be curious to see how close these projections come and I'll post end of month elevation. I'm feeling pretty good about what these projections would mean for fishing and boating on Blue Mesa this summer.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Utah
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    Quote Originally Posted by kokanee64 View Post
    Over at Wayne's Words a guy posted a link to Dept of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation lake level projections
    https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/s...24Month_03.pdf.

    The plan projects the end of month lake elevations for Fontenelle, Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa, Navajo and Powell for the next 24 months (2019 and 2020). Here is what the plan projects for Blue Mesa over the upcoming summer. This would be fantastic, getting us up to 68% of capacity from the 30% of capacity, and 10 ft or so better than the peak last summer. Yesterday the lake was at 7437.61.



    Elevation

    February 7437.59
    March 7438.08
    April 7445.41
    May 7450.39
    June 7488.92
    July 7494.09
    August 7490.33
    September 7487.82

    I tried to create a table showing projected elevation, increase from the previous month, and cummulative change from end of February but haven't yet figured out the table function. It is worth noting that essentially no increase is expected in March, only 7 ft in April, 5 ft in May, and then 38 ft in June. These folks are projecting peak end of month elevation in July, at 56.5 ft above the end of of February (and today's) elevation.

    I'll be curious to see how close these projections come and I'll post end of month elevation. I'm feeling pretty good about what these projections would mean for fishing and boating on Blue Mesa this summer.
    You're optimism would be much different than my experiences as to the effect of fast rising water conditions. I've found it blows the fishing all to hell. For you folks fishing Blue Mesa, I hope you are correct.
    2003 Jetcraft SK2125, Yamaha 150, Yamaha T8, 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually

  7. #7
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    Feb 2019
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    I am surprised they predict more of a rise in April than in May. Maybe they are letting more water go in May. I don't think a 7 ft. rise will get the boat slips off the bank at the lake fork. Thanks for the update!

  8. #8
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    Feb 2019
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    Ok, I had to dig into this runoff numbers a little with an ex-fish biologist. Apparently the south facing slopes burn off first accounting for the April runoff. After that the air has to warm to a certain temp. to melt the rest. That is dumbing down all the big words he used. Rule of thumb he said is GJ hits 80 degrees we are in run off mode. One problem is they let the fingerlings go dark moon in April if there is no ice. It gets more problematic the later they wait because of head gates open between Roaring Judy and the lake.

  9. #9
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Hey SuperD,

    I hear you about rapidly rising water and fishing, so I tried to think back to years when BM was hit with a lot of run off -- couldn't recall them clearly so I'll maybe take a look at some water records and look a little deeper. The BM fishery took a big hit during the mackinaw predation years (08 - 10 if I recall correctly) but has mostly been good to excellent the 19 years I've fished it. There are lots of years when lots of water is dumped during runoff but I don't recall any when fishing slowed noticeably. BM is 25 miles long, so people move down lake to avoid mud and trees/debris from big runoffs. This year will be an extreme year; by the end of the summer a substantial majority of the water in the lake will have entered in the past 2 months as runoff (from 30% to 68%). We'll see if our catch rate drops but I'm guessing it will be good. For me, the three big concerns for the fishery are

    (1) will we have a lots of fresh water dumped on the lake because salmon are stressed with low oxygen and warmer temps -- this affects summer fishing success and the egg harvest.
    (2) how many fingerlings were released for the cohort we are catching now and
    (3) how many were eaten by lake trout since then.

    My father always claimed that fishing improved when a lake went up because the brown trout found lots of newly submerged bugs and such. That's not the same as 40 feet in 30 days, which we may see this summer. This has gotten me thinking that I've never recorded the lake level or calculated rates of water level change in any of the fishing records I've kept. I sort of pay attention to water temp, but not all that much. Thanks for bringing this up -- it is giving me new things to think about. Kokanee64

  10. #10
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    I'm a 100% sure that the net effect of the lake rising will be good for the fishery. It just might take a short period for things to stabilize.
    2003 Jetcraft SK2125, Yamaha 150, Yamaha T8, 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually

  11. #11
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    I think you're calling this one right and it will be interesting to see if I can detect the severity and the length of the effect, so thanks. You know you are living right when you collect your data by going fishing.

  12. #12
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    Thought I'd share an interesting tidbit from the Gunnison Country Times (April 11) we found when we returned home from Denver today (April 14):

    "Working in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service (NSP) rangers at Curecanti National Recreation Area broke through two-foot-thick ice this past Friday to stock rainbow trout at Blue Mesa Reservoir. While the Fish and Wildlife Service stocks 120,000 ten-inch fish annually at the reservoir west of Gunnison, staff from the agency's Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery made four separate trips over the last week with a total of 134,000 additional four-inch trout. The fish were excess stock from the hatchery which the Fish and Wildlife Service crew was happy to deliver to Blue Mesa."

    The fingerling delivery would have been April 5 I believe, so probably the ice is less than 2 feet thick today.

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