Monday, February 18, 2019

Planning our Early Early Spring Fishing

By Bill Prater
So. I’m not sure exactly how warm it needs to get before we can cast again into unfrozen water, but I know it’s something more than 10 degrees.

That’s exactly what it was 10 months ago as I emerged from Walt's warm truck for ice-out fishing in North Park. Ever the over-eager one, I quickly jumped into my waders - and then mid-thigh into the frigid water of a lake not fully committed to its spring meltdown. I managed one ragged, unsuccessful cast, then another. Then I raced back to that warm truck with both hands curled into a fetal position. And then and Walt and I sat for an hour swilling coffee and watching the temperature gauge still recording 10 degrees.

Periodically I would wade back to see if my hands would start casting again (they wouldn’t), while Walt to his embarrassment never even got out of the truck. Charlie, Pat and whomever else was with us on that cold windy day never ventured from their vehicles until well past mid morning.

The point - and I do have one - is that when it eventually did warm into the ‘20s, we got into  memorable trout. Even the wind wasn’t all that bad, eventually. On that very productive fishing day we were reminded once again that intolerable conditions can be tolerated when fishing prospects and spring fever warrant. Just force yourself to stay in the truck until the outside temperature is a few more degrees above zero.

So.  This brings us to Early Early Spring 2019. Along the Front Range it is still possible to ice fish - unless you doubt the wisdom of anglers hopping around on Boyd Lake within casting range of open water. Or we can head into the mountains and use Dave’s new drill on that two-foot thick icecap. We can slso begin to plan what to do when our baits finally stop bouncing around on top of the lake.

Club President Jim Visger is keeping the club fishing calendar. Let’s load him up with options.

I for one see several:

As soon as early morning temps get back above the teens, we should resume after-breakfast club ventures to Carter, Flatiron or River’s Edge. And we will surely have open water restored soon at Boyd - where holdover trout having been hanging around the boat ramp, Dan is hoping for an early walleye bite run high, and the boat ramp is optimistically set to reopen March 1.
In Loveland proper, the Recycle Pond should be first to melt, with its eight or nine aerators still keeping some water circulating. And Flatiron Reservoir west of town generally stays partly clear year-round as the water is pumped back and forth to Pinewood. Carter, though recently frozen, should remain accessible through spring, though boat access there and Horsetooth is not set to begin until April 1. (By the way, there has been no further word on boating access to Pinewood, since it was closed last summer because of increasingly stringent aquatic nuisance regulation. But as soon as things thaw we can still launch a kayak or float tube there without restriction. That boating ban should cut down on the competition)
Beyond an easy 20-minute drive, another option is easy:  the annual ice-out trip to North Park as soon as weather dictates, hopefully followed by a follow-up ice out trip to North Park the following week. Where else should we go?

To me, others outings that should be on our spring list: Sterling, John Martin, Stalker Pond. And another shot at the Promontory Ponds in Greeley, before the weeds get too thick.
At least, this is what’s keeping me awake nights. That, and hands that occasionally still gnarl up like a bunch of unripe bananas.

So let's talk it over, and make Jim start building a list. Here's the old boy's e-mail.

Monday, February 11, 2019

John Martin!

Okay, I just got through watching Chad LaChance’s latest episode, about white bass at John Martin in early May last year. As I recall we scrubbed a trip about the same time due to high wind forecasts. Turns out he got blown off the lake early even in that big heavy boat of his...but not until he’d caught a buttload of big white bass and wipers.

I’m thinking, long trip down there, possible gale force winds, but buttload of big white bass and wipers... So, what do you think?  Time to start planning the spring fishing season.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Finding your secret fishing hole Part One of Two

By:  Bill Prater
Note:  These articles also appear on Fish Explorer
Close the door, and move in close. Today we talk about a 21st Century way to explore the bottom of your favorite lake, pond or stream, using a free “Google Earth Pro” tool called “historical imagery.” Don’t let your eyes glaze over; this is harder to explain than it is to use.
Most folks with a personal computer have used the application to see how their home looks from a few thousand feet in the air, or whether there’s a new truck parked outside an old girlfriend’s apartment. It’s an amazing, evolving tool that used to cost a couple hundred bucks; people use it to explore everything from vacation spots to Mayan ruins to the perfect spot for a new mall. But as a clever Fish Explorer, you can also use it to improve your knowledge of your secret fishing hole. And your buddy’s. (Note: this is a pretty non-technical way to study a lake bottom. To really get into this sort of thing, check out Dan Swanson's article in Fish Explorer on "Mapping the West.")

With water supply reservoirs in places like Colorado, Wyoming and Texas, when the water is drawn down, you can sometimes just park by a lake and scout the dried-up lake bed for logs and rocks and drop offs. But that’s a lot of work for an armchair angler. Here’s an alternative: Use “historical imagery” to fly back in time to find secrets revealed only during extreme drawdown. 
One nifty benefit of “Fish Explorer” is built-in access to Google Maps and Google Earth images under lake information. You probably use it to zoom in for a look at boat ramps, weed beds and so forth. Now take things one step further.

Before we go any further, a few caveats: You CAN pull up the most recent satellite images with your cell phone, but the screen is tiny. Also, this is a Google product, not made to work well with Apple products. You CAN fill your IPad screen with a satellite image of your favorite lake, and move all around the earth, which still seems like magic. But the only available satellite imagery is the most current one, and doesn’t include things like navigation coordinates. So you really need a laptop or desktop PC. If you don’t have one, explain what you want to a librarian. 

WHY BOTHER, YOU ASK? Bernie Keefe can probably use the latest fish finder technology to pinpoint one particular lake trout in a whole lake. Dan Swanson can cruise a lake at highway speed while pointing out secret drop-offs, weed lines and spawning beds. But I for one have a hard time telling the digital fish finder difference between a small boulder and a big fish. I would still like to see what a particular stretch of lake or pond would look like without its water, or at least, really low. 

When you fly around the planet using Google Earth, it looks like a single globe. It’s really a patchwork of images taken on different dates and stitched together by powerful computer magic. The ones you see are typically taken within the last one to three years. (less populated rural areas are photographed less often). 

SO HERE’S THE TRICK: First, download Google Earth Pro and create an account. Here's a link: https://support.google.com/earth/answer/21955?hl=en  It’s free, but I think you have to get a Google e-mail. Now play around with the program, making particular use of the cursor. When ready, search by name for a lake or pond, or “fly” over the landscape until you find what you want.
The important thing is this: after Google updates images, you can still find and manipulate older versions, dating back to around 1995. Think about that. Then go to the list of options on the top left of the screen. Find View, then turn on “Historical Imagery.” Or click on the little clock icon to slide the cursor from the most recent image, to earlier ones. You’re looking versions with low water, or clearest weather or clearest water.
FOR EXAMPLE, below is an image of the south boat ramp area of Carter Lake near Loveland, CO at full pool, taken June 19, 2014. The ramp and most interesting structure is underwater. Scroll back to April 4, 2007, and check out the lake bottom beyond the end of the ramp. (Enlarge the photo for a closer look, and remember you can really zoom in closer in Google Earth itself)
Remember, you can thumb through ALL previous images. Some show a lake that’s bank full; in others the lake is hidden by clouds or snow. Again, look for an image taken during drought or irrigation drawdown. For northeast Colorado, that's mostly April 4, 2007. You can work the same trick on any body of water subject to drawdown, anywhere.
HERE ARE other specific low-level examples from Fish Explorer states: 
  • TEXAS: For Lake Travis, October 20, 2014.
  • FLORIDA: Lake Okeechobee, January 2009
  • CALIFORNIA: Milleston Lake, April 5, 2014
  • WYOMING: Glendo, Sept. 9, 2006 
  • COLORADO: Blue Heron Lake, St. Vrain State Park, October 7, 2012 
That should get you started. With practice you’ll learn to zoom in and out, place waypoints, and copy, save and even share an image. I’ll put another examples in Part Two of this discussion.
South boat ramp at Carter Lake, full pool
                                       # # #
Same view of Carter south ramp, April 4, 2007

Finding your secret fishing hole. Part Two of Two


by: Bill Prater 2/5/2019

Note:  this article also appears on Fish Explorer.

In Part One we used Google Earth Pro to introduce historical imagery to look back in time as water levels of lakes, ponds and streams fluctuate. Let’s take that further and explore the prehistory of a new lake: BLUE HERON LAKE in St. Vrain State Park near Longmont, Colorado. It was opened to the public a few years ago. Before that Colorado Parks and Wildlife transformed it from the spoils of an old gravel quarry into a nice little lake with reefs, humps and other intriguing underwater structure. If you didn't have a chance to look it over as it was being built, you can still look back on the building process using historical imagery. 
After reading through this, I'm hoping you log onto the free Google Earth Pro application and get familiar with how it works, particularly the slider that moves you between the current satellite images and ones taken over the past three decades. Here's the link to get started: http://support.google.com/earth/answer/21955?hl=en 

When you're ready, log onto Google Earth Pro and search for St. Vrain State Park. Zoom in on Blue Heron, the biggest pond in the cluster. See something interesting? The lake bottom at the end of the boat ramp? Intriguing weed beds or underwater humps? 

Probably not; again, Blue Heron was created from an old gravel quarry, and bulldozed into shape to attract and hold fish. The most recent image shows a kind of boring pond full of dark water. But there’s more there than meets the eye.

Check out the two images below. The one from May 31, 2018 just shows water and a small island on the southwest corner. Now enlarge the other one taken when the lake was filling, Oct. 7, 2012.
 
If you were in the application right now you could zoom in and study detail. But even here you can spot emerging weed beds and at least 10 humps or gravel reefs created by the construction crew. Check out the edge where rip rap ends and other lake features begin. I put a yellow placemarker on a hidden east-west hump just west of the island that is now the lone visible structure. Here’s something else important to remember: any coordinates or waypoint you place on the dry lake bed will be a coordinate or waypoint AT THE SAME SPOT AND IN THE SAME SCALE on the latest Google Earth image. That's pretty cool stuff: If you use a fish finder, you have an even better head start at finding where the fish are hiding.

If you slide back even further, the image from Oct. 27, 2011 shows the lake under construction. You can learn something there, too. 

That’s it! The software has all sorts of other powerful tools you can use to use and share fishing maps, but I admittedly don't know how to use at least some of them. Just wanted to share something I find useful. Honest, Google won't even give me a T-shirt for telling you this. Hope you find it useful, and let me know what you think.
 
Blue Heron at full pool. Quite a bit of hidden structure can be identified. Not the waypoint in open water just west of the little island. Coordinates are the same as the waypoint from 2012, when the lake was filling...
Same view as above, made while the lake was filling. Another view, while bulldozing was still underway, is also available...






There just wasn’t any competition… Norm Engelbrecht won the day.

Saturdays ice fishing trip to Tarryall Reservoir to work with Outdoor Buddies and assist handicapped fishers was a big success. There were more “helpers” than there were handicapped people so we had an opportunity to just fish. Everyone there was friendly and if someone had a fish on many would trot over to see what was caught. The event organizers drove around offering rides in the four wheelers to anyone who wanted to get back to the parking area or back to the ice hole and ensured that if anyone needed help, they were there to assist with anything. Temps started at 0 degrees but with clear skies and no wind it warmed up quickly.  

Tom Miller spent his time using his Go Pro camera with Alan Jones assisting and interviewed anyone that would talk with him. There were dogs on the ice and in ice sleds and there were tracked wheelchairs that climbed effortlessly up the snow bank pulling a sled behind them. I’m sure Tom captured some of that on his camera so we may have a chance to see some of that.
In a blog that Bill Prater wrote in 2018 he stated, “Now I would modestly say I am close to the best ice angler in the club -- but only in the sense that I try to stand close to Norm Engelbrecht when we fish together.

Bill sure knows what he’s talking about!  Not everyone fished but Norm sure did!
Norm caught the first fish, the biggest fish, the most fish and the only fish for the entire LFC group that was there.

Without Bill there just wasn’t any competition as much as we tried. Dave Boyle hooked a big fish that might have beaten Norms but that one got away. The rest of the group, John Gwinnup, Jim Baxter, Keith Gentry and myself, had to be content with just being on the ice. Maybe it was the recent addition of the American flag that Norm added to his sled this trip. 

Either way, we were in good company, so it was a good day.