Monday, June 29, 2020
Thursday, June 25, 2020
By Bill Prater
Even before bulldozers, settlers along the rivers and streams of the Colorado quarried rocks and sand for construction of roads and buildings, a process that continues today. Surprisingly, many resulting holes in the ground hold decent populations of fish, and some are open to the public. If you’re looking for a place closer to home to fish, how do you tell the good from the mediocre? You can go from one to another with a pole, of course, but you can improve your odds with advance sleuthing.
As we've talked about elsewhere, Google Earth can help you learn a lot about a body of water without wetting a line, and Fish Explorer and the Colorado Fishing Atlas can provide other insights. But there’s a lot you can do for yourself. (See links below)
Once you’ve identified public waters (and accessible private ponds, if you’re fortunate), scout before you fish. With water as it is in the West, we don’t have many farm ponds like the ones in the Midwest and south, dug with an intention to hold both water and fish. Most of our ponds are old gravel pits shaped like a bathtub, with little variation in depth, and predictably steep banks dropping quickly into deep water. Whether or not they’re worth investing your worms depends on additional factors. A precious few were finished off with an eye toward making them a fishery; if you’re not near one of those, you can still find ponds with a few islands or humps that once held quarrying machinery. And there may be other irregularities in the bottom due to things like variations in veins of sand and gravel.
Also, ask around, or check newspaper and other Internet files to see whether the pond has had pollution problems; some sugar cane operations left a nasty legacy, for example, and high tech manufacturers and others left chemicals in their wake that haunt us still. But if you’re finding reasonably clean water, it’s time to look closer.
Fishing from the bank presents special problems. With little variation in depth or soil type, most around here are lined with cattails, making access difficult. (The flip side of that is, if you can find a way to reach the outside edges of those cattails, your chances of success are multiplied.) The best answer is to fish from a float tube, but that’s not always possible, particularly with kids. Some anglers have stomped down the cattails in places so they can fish; I wouldn’t recommend that, but if a bare spot of shoreline is there, use it. Sometimes a better option is to wear knee boots and locate points of land stretching into the water. Without wading too deep, you may be able to cast parallel to the outside edge of those cattails. You’ll be dropping your lure where both predators and panfish like to hide. Fishing further out in waders can be productive but may be prohibited; that’s tricky anyway because the bottom typically drops off suddenly.
If the water’s murky, it can be difficult to locate the edges of weed beds, which are usually the best and sometimes the only structures in an old pit. Clarity can vary from season to season; check periodically for clearer water and try to spot and memorize the location of weed beds, drop offs, shallow flats. This is not an article on fishing techniques. But let me say that one of the best tools for learning bottom composition and depth is a football jig rigged weedless and fished with fairly heavy tackle. You can feel your way along the bottom and in the process catch a bass or two, if they’re in there.
The real bonus to many of these ponds is, they’re deep enough to maintain at least a seasonal trout fishery, and our friends at Colorado Parks and Wildlife have created good local fisheries. Being an old Midwesterner, I was kind of contemptuous of put-and-take trout for years after I moved here. Then I realized 1. Those fish will bite long before and after warm water species are in near hibernation. 2. If you find the right circumstances, you can find at least a few stockers grown to bragging size.
When you’ve done all this, and think you’ve located one or two ponds with good potential, I wouldn’t blame you for choosing to keep it to yourself. Anyway, that give others the pleasure of discovering the place the way you did.
Google Earth https://www.google.com/earth/versions/
Colorado trout stocking report https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/StockingReport.aspxColorado Fishing Atlas app https://cpw.state.co.us/Pages/CPW-Fishing-App.aspx
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
By Bill Prater
Note: As a way to help beginning anglers get through this annoying period in history, FishExplorer.com has launched a series of short articles on the basics. This piece of mine on how to assess the quality of local ponds is one of them. Bill
We have two basic types of manmade ponds in the flatlands of the Rocky Mountain West - one-time gravel pits and ones created by bulldozer as part of a municipal park or subdivision, mostly to look scenic and provide irrigation. Not sure what to call them: how about "landscaped pond?" As we scour the countryside for a good place to fish, let's start by focusing on that second type.
I frequent a 2-acre pond near my home, east of busy soccer fields in a city park. By quirk, it’s hard to spot until you get right on it, which may explain why I am usually the only person there looking for a fish. It’s not a great fishery, but it has a few gullible largemouth, and bluegill best described as “small but sporting.”
At first glance, it’s indistinguishable from a couple ponds nearby that are virtually fishless. To help tell the difference, start a search on Google Earth. Click here to get it for free. Unlike gravel ponds, generally shaped like a bathtub, landscaped ones more likely follow contours; you want irregularities; small hills, drainage ditches, flats, anything that might extend into the pond. The value of a Google Earth photo varies depending on water clarity, season when it was taken, and other factors. But between Google and walking around the pond, try to spot likely weed beds or other underwater irregularities.
Again, explore on foot; resist the temptation to immediately throw in a line.
At this time of year, this pond is a bit murky, visibility maybe a foot and a half. Okay. Spot any weed beds? Maybe not in early spring, but by June or so weed beds should emerge. You’re hoping for coontail, among other things; indicates clean water. You’re hoping not to find “snot weed,” slimy stuff that is the curse of the shorebound angler.
No brush or boat ramps or streams flowing in, but it looks like the developer dropped in some rocks, built a small earthen dam and an incoming drain pipe. For a tiny body of water, that passes as “structure.” The park is also sloped so runoff drains into pond.
Is pond water used to water the darned soccer fields? That nearby building probably houses irrigation pumps. That sucks, but it’s also typical, using local drainage water to irrigate. It means the water level’s likely to dwindle as summer progresses, and during drought. Not good, so see if you can determine the probable depth of the pond, and whether it might have a deep spot or two where fish can retreat.
The dam is small, but has small and medium-sized rocks. Those little saucers on either side were probably made by spawning bluegill. A little deeper, there may be similar but larger circles used by bass. Those adults may be small, but you never know.
What else should you look for when assessing a pond for fish? Check Fish Explorer to see if there’s stocking information, or the homeowners’ association. In this case, the pond’s too tiny for that kind of effort. With larger ponds, you may find Colorado Parks and Wildlife records on stocking, which can range from catchable size trout to the juvenile warm water fish like bluegill, bass or catfish.
When you’re finally ready to drop in a line, here’s what you want to learn:
- Large or small, cute or homely, can I get any kind of fish to bite? This place may be subject to fishkill, or dominated by non-game species like shad or carp, or stunted green sunfish. It may have a ton of tiny panfish and a few fat predators.
- Am I at least seeing fish? What kind? Minnows? Crawdads? Both indicate a good food source for bass and catfish.
- As I move around, am I finding flats, or deeper water? Some spots clearer than others? Is my bait getting hung in underwater weeds (that’s good) or hung up on rocks (can be good, unless it’s too shallow.
That’s it. Don’t hope too much for a small pond that gets heavy pressure, but don’t be too pessimistic either. A lot of folks just bait up and hope for the best.
Saturday, June 20, 2020
Friday, June 19, 2020
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission Supports Full Funding of Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.
With the reopening of Perkins it may be possible to resume Friday morning breakfast.
Social distancing rules will be in force and with the reduced capacity Perkins may not be able to accommodate all.
Proceed with caution folks.
Friday, June 12, 2020