Blue Mesa Salmon Fishing Bounces Back!

By Robby Richardson
Guide, Sport Fish Colorado

Blue Mesa Reservoir, one of the top kokanee salmon fisheries in the U.S., has seen some ups and downs over the last decade with the last three years progressively getting tougher to catch limits of these tasty fish. This decline has been a big concern for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), who thinks this is a direct result of a predator prey imbalance. Mackinaw lake trout, the kokanee’s number one predator, have increased in number over the last decade and the CDOW has been concerned that the Mackinaw could single handedly wipe out Blue Mesa’s kokanee population if drastic measures were not taken. As a result, CDOW began netting and killing these lake trout in the fall of 2009. These netting procedures are still taking place as well as an effort by local anglers and fishing guides to catch and keep smaller lake trout (22” and under).

Blue Mesa Colorado Kokanee
Blue Mesa Kokanee

The good news is that these efforts appear to be making an impact, as the fishing for the larger lake trout has become a lot tougher (indicating a possible decrease in numbers) and thus far, Blue Mesa’s 2011 kokanee salmon fishing season has been phenomenal! Many of the Blue Mesa regulars say that this summer’s fishing reminds them of “the good ole’ days!” As a fishing guide on Blue Mesa over the last five years, I can attest that Blue Mesa’s salmon population appears to be making a very strong come back! My clients are catching quantity and quality with an average of 25 to 50 fish up to 19.25” being caught a day. We have even had a few 60-70 fish days! With this said, it takes a little more than a string of cowbells and a green arnie to have see consistent success…

Blue Mesa Colorado Kokanee

These kokanee salmon are very sensitive to light conditions. Many factors such as water clarity, sunlight, water temps, and plankton concentrations play into what colors and actions will make a kokanee strike at your lure. I believe that every lure has a time and place (even the ugly ones) it is just a matter of figuring out which one is going to make a kokanee mad enough to strike it! Kokanee salmon feed on plankton and the only reason they strike a lure is because they are territorial and they get upset when a bright flashy lure is trolled through their feeding territory. The lure must be the right color and have the right action though and just because it worked yesterday, doesn’t mean that it is going to work today. So don’t “fall in love” with your favorite lure; be willing to try new lures at new depths until you see the results you are looking for. Once you get some kind of a sign, adjust your other poles to troll some sort of a variation of that same color or lure pattern. Once you get 3 or 4 rods dialed in on what the kokanee want, the real fun begins!

Blue Mesa Colorado Kokanee
Blue Mesa Colorado Kokanee

So get up here and catch some of these delicious salmon for dinner! The weather has been gorgeous and Blue Mesa has several options for camping www.nps.gov/cure/planyourvisit/camping.htm. A current fishing report can be found here sportfishcolorado.com/fishing_reports.html, but I anticipate the trolling to remain good to excellent through July, and August’s jigging bite should be phenomenal! Be sure to release all fish you don’t want to eat and remember that the daily bag and possession limit for kokanee salmon in Colorado is 10 fish per person.

Resources:

Check out Robby's website Sport Fish Colorado

Gunnison River Click here to buy a Downloadable Digital Fishing Map for the Gunnison from the headwaters to Blue Mesa Reservoir. Includes the East and Taylor Rivers