Author Archives: Dennis McKinney

Blue Mesa Yellow Perch


Ice fishers find yellow perch near a steep cliff at Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir – The pile of yellow perch in front of Cally Westcoat grew larger during the day. Although she and her fishing partner Colt Emich saw periods of slow action, there were times when she could not get her lure to the bottom before another perch was on her line. When the catch was tallied at the end of the day, Cally, Colt and Dan Emich had reduced the perch population by 72. Read more

Cline Ranch State Wildlife Area

Colorado has a new stretch of public water featuring an old approach to managing fishing pressure. Similar to private stretches of famous rivers in Great Britain, three miles of upper Tarryall Creek within the new Cline Ranch SWA have been divided into individual fishing beats. The parking area has four stalls for vehicles, with each stall assigned to one of the four beats. Park in one of the stalls, and you will have more than a half mile of the creek all to yourself or for a total of four anglers in your party.

Tarryall Creek is narrow and challenging. Willows crowd the banks on all of the beats, often overhanging the entire creek. Not much room here for long back casts. While this is challenging for anglers, it is ideal for the creek’s resident population of wild brown trout. The browns are right at home in the dark recesses of the overhangs and undercut banks.

Fortunately, the browns rise freely to a dry fly such as an Elk Hair Caddis. When upstream casts are impossible, small Woolly Buggers threaded slowly downstream into dark water may bring the browns out of hiding.

Cline Ranch SWA is located on Highway 285 in South Park, a few miles north of Como. Fishing is restricted to flies and lures only.

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Eleven Mile State Park – Carp on the Flats

I like fly-fishing flat water. Not just in spring, when runoff shuts down the rivers, but anytime between ice-off and ice-up. Turn me out on a quiet stretch of shoreline with a fly rod and a box of flies, and I will not bother the rest of the herd for hours.

And I am not fussy about the species or the location, any fish that frequents the shorelines in either cold or warm bodies of water will do. I target mountain park reservoirs for large trout, especially during the major insect hatches, and I try to fish the prime times in spring and fall when pike and wipers come into fly range.

However, in June, the fishing at Eleven Mile Reservoir takes precedence over all others. In addition to hit-and-miss fishing for pike, there is sure-fire action for carp on the flats. Read more

Ice Fishing – Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

Strange thing … the power that fish averaging only 8-inches long can have over humans. Yet, despite their size, yellow perch have a following of devotees in Colorado, especially among ice fishers, where the devotion can approach the cult level.

Perch loyalists tend to be narrow in their focus, interested in seeing nothing but perch coming through the ice. Trout caught incidentally are fun to play and release but are otherwise considered a nuisance, a diversion from the mission, which is putting as many perch on the ice as possible.

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Ice Fishing – Getting Started

Ice is the great equalizer. The frozen surface of a lake is an open court, a level playing field that allows otherwise shore-bound anglers to delve into a lake’s sweet spots, which were accessible only by boat in open water. Anglers that waited on the sidelines for the playing field to solidify, now march into the game waving ice augers, dragging sleds and toting plastic buckets bristling with short fishing rods.

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Ice Fishing – Where to go for trout

Ice fishers heading out at Crawford Reservoir

Finding a place to ice fish for trout is easy, no matter where you live in Colorado. From the mountains to the foothills, nearly all public reservoirs and lakes on both sides of the Continental Divide are open to ice fishing.

Some of the more popular destinations include the mountain park reservoirs, where the trout grow large and ice fishing begins earlier than at lower elevations. Ice fishing may get underway up here by mid-December. However, in some years, reservoirs and lakes may ice over later than usual, depending on the weather.  For information on ice-safety, visit

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Meet the Browns

Brown trout
Brown trout. Photo by © Mike DelliVeneri/CPW.

Since their introduction into Colorado in the late 19th century, brown trout have established wild and self-sustaining populations throughout hundreds of miles of rivers and creeks. They occur today in nearly every mountain stream between 6,000 and 10,000 feet in elevation. In addition to the more accessible rivers and mountain reservoirs, where they can grow to trophy sizes, vibrant populations of wild browns provide sport-fishing opportunities for backcountry anglers.

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Back Where They Belong: Stocking Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

  • heading out on horseback
  • Bag full of cutthroats
  • horse mane
  • Unloading horse
  • Stocking Rio Grande Cutthroats

Each September, wildlife manager Rod Ruybalid packs hundreds of native Rio Grande cutthroat trout fingerlings into high-mountain lakes and streams. Although cutthroat trout spawn naturally in the wild, their populations are augmented with native cutthroat trout that are spawned by hand and raised in hatcheries.

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