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Joe’s Fishing HoleJoe’s Fishing Hole

Joe's Fishing Hole: Yellow perch die-off helps trout

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Yellow perch at Wildhorse

Dead yellow perch litter the shoreline at Wildhorse Reservoir as they were the victim of anaerobic conditions caused by the unusually quick turnover right after ice-out last week. It appears that trout were not affected by this event and fishing for trout continued to be good after the perch die-off.

Last week reports of a fish die-off at Wildhorse Reservoir were coming in. NDOW biologists went up and confirmed that a die-off had occurred. It appears that it primarily affected perch, with a few catfish, and only one dead trout was found.

Why did it occur? The lake is currently at 50% of capacity and after a long winter under the ice, anaerobic conditions build up especially at the lower depths. Over the winter dead plant matter that has settled to the bottom decays which uses oxygen and gives off carbon dioxide, making the lower depths even more anaerobic.

On Sunday, April 3, the lake was 80% to 90% covered in ice. Then a storm front blew through on Monday and Tuesday with winds up to 50 mph breaking up the ice and stirring the anaerobic water in the depths up and causing the lake to turn over, which happens every spring and fall.

Perch and catfish spend much of the winter just above this anaerobic layer and when it was stirred up from the depths these fish were caught up in it and basically suffocated. Trout are generally higher up in the water column and appeared to have avoided the worst of this very anaerobic water.

According to NDOW Fisheries Biologist C.J. Ellingwood, “A fish die-off is a common, naturally occurring process. Since the lake was overpopulated with yellow perch, this die-off is not expected to hurt the health of the overall fishery.”

Ellingwood also said that this may actually help the fishery by removing some of the perch from the lake as it continues to lose capacity due to the ongoing drought. It may even help the trout fishery as they compete for the same food source and the number of trout in the reservoir is controlled through stocking, while the perch are able to reproduce naturally in the lake and had started to overpopulate it. NDOW biologists will continue to monitor the situation.

In spite of the fish die-off at Wildhorse Reservoir, fishing for trout has been good there since ice off last week. It is expected to continue to be good this weekend.

WILDHORSE

There has been a fish die-off here, but it appears to be mainly yellow perch with a few catfish. NDOW biologists have found only one trout that had died. This was due to anaerobic conditions that were caused by a turnover of the lake due to the fast loss of the ice and high winds that stirred the lake water. Surface water temperatures are 41 degrees and fishing has been good this week for trout. Those who have a boat will find that the west side of the lake has been producing fish averaging 14 to 18 inches with an occasional 20 incher caught. Fishing in the coves as well as in the Hendricks and Penrod Arms from shore has been good for trout. Fly fishermen have been having good luck with wine colored leech patterns as well as wine or red chironomids with silver wire and a silver bead. Olive leeches and buggers have produced a few fish as well. For bait anglers try fishing an inflated worm a few feet off the bottom using a slip sinker in water that is four to 10 feet deep. Don’t fish it too far from the bank, 20 to 30 feet at most. Another option would be to roll some PowerBait to make a bell shape and fish it in a similar fashion to the inflated worm using a slip sinker and it will float up a couple of feet above the bottom. Make sure to dip the PowerBait in the water for a few seconds after it is on the hook to “gel” it up so it doesn’t come off the hook when casting. Wildhorse was stocked with 10,000 trout on April 8. No black bass may be kept until July 1. Please return all black bass to the lake as soon as they are caught.

SOUTH FORK RESERVOIR

Little has changed in fishing conditions and the fishing has been good for trout at South Fork. The surface water temperature has cooled a bit this week due to the colder air temperatures and the snow. However, fishing continues to be good for spin, bait and fly rodders with most anglers fishing from Jet Ski Beach, on the northeast side of the lake, near the spillway on the northwest side of the lake and by the dam on the east side of the lake. Bait anglers seem to be having the best luck with worms floated off of the bottom about 20-30 feet from shore. Spin anglers continue to report good luck with gold Kastmasters, spinners and small jigs. Fly fishermen report that fishing has also been good for trout in the 15 to 20-inch range. Most are being caught with chironomid (midge larva) patterns fished under an indicator. Black snow cones with a white bead and red wire ribbing have been working well. Red snow cones are also producing fish. Black, olive or purple wooly buggers and leech patterns have are also catching fish. However, brown or root beer colored wooly buggers and leeches with some flash seem to be working the best for stripping. A few smallmouth and wipers have shown up in the creel. Male bass are starting to transition from the deeper water to the spawning beds hanging in about 15 to 20 feet of water. The wipers were caught near the surface, but in the middle of the south end of the lake. If targeting these warm water fish, slow down the retrieve as the water is still well below their comfort zone and they are moving slower. Chartreuse was working for the wipers but no report on what was working for the black bass. No black bass may be kept until July 1. Return them to the water as soon as they are caught.

JIGGS/ZUNINO RESERVOIR

Almost dry and no fish.WILSON RESERVOIR

The road is in good shape and the lake level is still low with the water just starting to touch the concrete at the very bottom of the boat ramp. There is not enough to launch a boat. Fishing was very good for fly fishermen last weekend, with several reporting 40 fish days with trout taking just about any fly that was thrown at them. The fish were averaging 14 to 18 inches and fat. Angers should use the same presentations and techniques as are being used at South Fork Reservoir. Since the big question every spring is when will the lake spill, with the low water levels and lack of snow pack, it probably won’t spill this year as it appears the peak snowmelt runoff has already occurred. Wilson was planted with approximately 12,000 trout on April 1.

RUBY LAKE NWR

Harrison Pass was open for driving to the marsh last weekend, but no word on its current condition with a week of snowfall. Anglers may want to consider going the long way through Secret Pass just to be safe. Not much has changed as far as fishing conditions and like the rest of northeastern Nevada the waters are ice free. Fishing has been fair to good for 13 to 18-inch fish depending upon the day and location on the ditch. Chironomid patterns such as zebra midges, Yankee buzzers, chromies and ice cream cones should work. Other flies such as leech patterns, balanced leeches, crystal buggers, #14-16 hare’s ears, and #16-18 PT nymphs fished under an indicator are recommended. Very small dry flies have also been effective on these warmer afternoons. Size 16 to 20 elk hair caddis, blue winged olives, ants and Griffith’s gnats should all be effective. Spin anglers should be using small spinners in black or olive with contrasting yellow or red colors.

JAKES CREEK/BOIES RESERVOIR

No change from last week as the lake is nearly full and anglers are catching trout. The surface water temperatures have cooled a bit to the mid 40s due to the precipitation and colder air temperatures. Worms seem to be the presentation of choice, though small spinners should also work for those who want to throw some hardware. Fly rodders should be using chironomids, PT nymphs, hare’s ears, small black or olive buggers and leeches.

COLD CREEK RESERVOIR

This winter repairs to the outlet structure and the reservoir bottom were completed, thanks to Kinross Gold. The reservoir is filling nicely and should allow for normal stocking this spring. NDOW will begin rebuilding the Largemouth Bass fishery with augmentations this summer.COMINS LAKE

The new boat dock is in the water and ready for boaters. Surface water temperatures have moved into the high 40s. Anglers report good spring fishing for quality rainbow trout from shore with reports of a few tiger and brown trout being caught. Nightcrawlers seem to be the bait of choice though some anglers also appeared to be doing well using PowerBait or using a bubble with a wet fly beneath it. Surface water temperatures are starting to move into the mid 40s. For fly rodders, this time of year chironomid patterns are recommended as they can make up as much as 80% of the trout’s diet in the spring in our high desert reservoirs. Black or olive wooly buggers and black, olive or wine-colored leech patterns may also entice trout. Pike anglers have had some success using artificial minnows or spoons jigged through the ice for 12-to-18-inch fish. Anglers, please note that NDOW has placed radio tags in several Northern Pike. These pike will have an orange Floy tag near their dorsal fin and a small antenna (~ 7 inches long) coming from their stomach. Please return these fish to the water for research purposes. All other pike should be humanely dispatched. There is no limit on the pike.

ILLIPAH

The lake ice free. The reservoir is at approximately 60% of capacity and fishing has been good. Anglers will do well with a variety of night crawlers, PowerBait, and spinners. For bait anglers nightcrawlers and rainbow PowerBait are the best bet. Small spinners, spoons and Kastmasters in gold for those throwing hardware should work. For fly rodders, this time of year chironomid patterns (midge larva) are recommended as they can make up as much as 80% of the trout’s diet in the spring in our high desert reservoirs. Black or olive wooly buggers and black, olive or wine-colored leech patterns may also entice trout.

STREAMS

In the eastern region stream flows are down a bit from last week. Most streams are below the median for this time of year, many well below. Anglers can now access the Bruneau over the Gold Creek Road, though still no word on getting to Jarbidge through Nevada. The recent precipitation may make for some muddy driving conditions on the back roads. The East Fork of the Owyhee immediately below Wildhorse Dam is flowing at a trickle as little water is coming out of the dam. However, this is normal for this time of year when the reservoir has plenty of capacity and the snow pack is below average. As you go further downstream flows pick up considerably and by the time you get close to Mountain City it is greatly improved though still half of median. The pool at the dam is still holding fish and is providing action for anglers using nymphs and streamers. As of April 15, the East Fork of the Owyhee near Mountain City gauging station was flowing at 85 cfs with the Gold Creek Station (right below the dam) still showing .1 cfs! The Bruneau River flowing was at 85 cfs, the Jarbidge was flowing at 18.5 cfs, Salmon Falls Creek at 194 cfs, Lamoille Creek at 25.4 cfs, the South Fork of the Humboldt at 35 cfs which is well below the median of 150 cfs for this time of year, Cleve Creek at 4.9 cfs, Steptoe Creek at 2.1 cfs and Kingston Creek at 3.1 cfs.

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