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Thread: 2020 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Gunnison, CO

    Default 2020 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

    Well, it's time to start thinking about fishing Blue Mesa for those of us who no longer ice fish. The lake is certainly in better condition this year than last, with a current elevation of 7484, up 47 ft from one year ago. I've posted a couple of photos below showing the ice-bound lake. For those who know the lake well and have sharp eyes, the Sapinaro photo shows the small island/reef below the Sapinaro store just barely poking through the ice. Current temps are running highs of about 45 and lows in the teens to 20s. With this kind of weather the ice might last to the middle of April or later.

    [sorry, had to delete the two photos from the phone because they were upside down and my life is too short to deal with it right now]

    We attended a presentation by the CO Parks & Wildlife folks in Gunnison last winter and learned a little about conditions and plans. The egg take in the fall was 6.5 million at Blue Mesa and 4.5 million from Wolford. The egg take at BM is down from the previous year but we were told these two numbers combined "meet state needs." They plan to release 3.5 million fingerlings into BM this spring. The economic impact from BM fishing last year was $12.3 million, versus $5.43 million 1987 (I haven't done the math but I'd bet this is a decline in real dollars over 33 years). They believe the current koke population is about 400,000 versus 1 million in 2002. They presented info about new studies showing considerable predation impact from lake trout (macinaw), some from brown trout and little from perch. As always, they have multiple, somewhat competing goals. First, they plan to manage predation to ensure sufficient eggs for kokanee sustainability. Second, they want to maintain trophy mac fishing. To that end, they have introduced a bounty program to reduce lake trout numbers. While I'm all in favor of reducing lake trout numbers, I'm not interesting in participating in the bounty program, so you'll have to go to the state web site to get details.

    The presenters spent a lot of time on the bounty plan but toward the very end got around to the elephant in the room: Gill Lice. The first gill lice were seen in 2015. In 2016 9% of examined salmon had lice with an average of 1.2 gill lice per fish. In 2017 68% of examined fish had lice at an average of 2.3 lice per fish. In 2018 97% of fish had lice and the average was up to 9.4 lice per fish. In 2019 100% of examined fish had lice and the average was 37.2 lice per fish. That's a big elephant. A economist friend and I used to joke that when our lecture topic was one that was not very well understood by researchers, we substituted hand waving for facts. The fish guys were doing a lot of hand waving at this point. No one knows for sure what will happen next, but this isn't good.

    Finally, for those who wonder if Gunnison and Blue Mesa will be safe for fishermen this summer, I have more unpleasant news. Gunnison County currently has 80 cases of Wuhan ChiCom BatBallSoup Virus, aka CV-19. We only have 17K people in the county, so our CV19 rate is 460 cases per 100,000 people, the highest in the state by a pretty good stretch. We have paid for our boat slip this summer and we plan to fish, but we will have to play it very save and be very careful. My daughter and son-in-law are both emergency physicians at the UC Medical Center in Denver and they estimate that the mortality rate from CV19 for people who check the same medical boxes as me is north of 80%. I probably won't be seeing them or my 2 month old granddaughter in person until a vaccine is available.

    On a happier note, it is worth remembering in these tough times that we in the US and around the world, are the luckiest, most fortunate people to have ever lived. Health, diet, education, democracy, income, etc., are at the highest levels ever and the rate of change in the last 100 years looks like the exponential curves for CV19 we see on the news every day. If you want to read about truly awful times, read "The Calamitous 14th Century" by Barbara Tuchman -- 60% of europe's population died from the plague and europe had to send the orphans on Childrens' Crusades just to get rid of them -- couldn't feed them. If you want to see amazing graphs about country and world progress over the last 2000 years, including up to date info on CV19, look at the web site Our World in Data, out of Oxford University. It is a tough time but we are tough people; we'll get through this if we take care of ourselves and one another.

    Tight lines, good health and jobs for all in 2020. Kokanee64
    Last edited by kokanee64; 03-30-2020 at 11:24 PM.


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