Flaming Gorge Fishing Report: Looking good for Memorial Day
Ryan Mosley, Flaming Gorge Project leader for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, sent in this report Monday.
We started our summer creel survey last week, which requires us to interview anglers on the water to collect catch information. One of benefits of performing this sampling effort is it allows us to talk to anglers and see what, where, and how they are catching fish. The first couple of surveys last week, fishing was high but catching was slow. On Saturday, most anglers were having success and it was very apparent the catch rates were increasing. I went out on Sunday to verify the data we collected, and had some success myself!
Even with the unsettled weather, water temperatures in the reservoir are in the upper 50s. These are the temps where the "magic" begins on the Gorge. The reservoir is "greening up" with microscopic algae, and will soon be followed by zooplankton increases, providing essential food resources for kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, and small lake trout. Most of the time, when food is present, fish activity increases. Here's a summary of successful fishing methods by species, which should provide a good start for the upcoming holiday.
Kokanee salmon • Most commonly caught while trolling spoons, dodger/squid combos, and pop-gear. Most kokanee are hanging close to the surface, where the water is warmer and zooplankton densities are high. Target depths from 10-20 ft early in the morning for the most success, but watch the sonar for fish to drop deeper during the day. Vary trolling speed by doing "S" turns, and note if hits come on the outside (faster) or inside (slower) of a turn. I had the most success trolling around 1.8-2.0 mph with a Rocky Mountain Tackle dodger in Watermelon, trailed by a squid in Double-glow Pink. Tip the bait with Gulp, meal worm, etc. for more enticement.
Smallmouth Bass • Starting to get more active in the shallows in preparation for the spawn. This is the time of the year when big smallies are more commonly caught. Releasing the big bass while harvesting the small ones (8-12 inches) is helpful for promoting a healthy bass fishery. Smallmouth bass in the Gorge make great table fare too. Target bass using jigs, Senkos, jerk baits, and deep running crankbaits. Where you find one bass, there are likely many. I used a Rapala Xrap yesterday, retrieving it with a jerk, jerk, pause (5-10 seconds). All of the hits came on the suspended pause, some of which were explosive. Jigs can be worked slowly across the bottom, and flipped to fish spotted in the shallows.
Rainbow trout • Probably providing the highest catch rates right now. They can be caught still fishing from the bank, trolling, casting, vertically jigging, and often enough, are caught while fishing for other species. Big rainbow trout are concentrated in the shallows, attempting to spawn on shallow rocky points and where water flows into the reservoir. Once again, where you find one, you will find others. Try casting small 3-inch tubes or marabous in earth tone colors. Whites and blacks also work well at times. Fly fishing can be very effective for rainbows this time of year, with abundant midge hatches throughout the day, and terrestrial species like flying ants and cicadas starting to show up.
Lake trout • Small lake trout are being caught more frequently on the north end of the reservoir, but more of an incidental catch on the south end right now. Stable weather patterns will likely help. While trolling for rainbows or kokanee, watch the sonar for schools of small lake trout. Dropping the lure just above their depth can produce a lot of success and some fine dining! You can also jig for them and they are more readily caught on small tube jigs (white w/ black flake) tipped with sucker meat. Look for schools of lake trout along rocky points and submerged ridges or islands in depths of 60-110 ft.
Regardless of the fishing, the scenery and wildlife are hard to beat. Loons, ospreys, big horn sheep, and deer are commonly viewed this time of year. While working on the reservoir last weekend, we spotted 5 deer swimming across the lake in our path. We kept our distance, so they wouldn't stress, but also made sure they made it safely across. Needless to say, they were pretty reluctant to share their catch information.
It's a great time of year to fish the Gorge. Good luck and have a safe enjoyable holiday! Ryan