Hello Anglers, well Crowley Lake Opener has come and gone and I would like to give you my assement and update on the last 7 days fishing the lake.
On opening Saturday the air temperature were very crisp, down into the high 20’s and very low 30’s and freezing. Water temps were at 47 degrees on the surface, meaning water was much colder on the bottom of the lake. The midge hatches were almost non existent and when they did try to hatch it was way after 9am. The water clarity was poor, visibility around 3 feet and already algae in the water. The lake has come down since last Saturday over 4 feet and still dropping. They are pulling in and pushing out so much water there is a definate current running down the middle of the lake. Deep water indicators are moving up wind, even if you have a solid breeze coming in from the opposite direction.
Because of the water temps being so cold and midge hatches not happening the first few days, I decided to change tactics and started fishing leech patterns as the top and bottom fly on my deep water indicator systems. With no midge hatches, fish won’t go down deep and stay close to the bottom so I would fish all the way up off the bottom, as much as 5 feet. I had one afternoon where I was fishing into 25 feet of water and my balanced leech pattern 5 feet of the bottom. I was getting a grab around every 4 minutes and landed 30 fish and then the bite just switched off. I fished the next hour for 2 grabs even moving the fly up and down in the water column and fishing deeper and shallower depths but the fish just turned off. Welcome to Crowley, its ever changing! I always talk about the old saying about Crowley: “The only thing that stays consistent at Crowley is change” Black/red, Black/blue, Black/green, Black/purple all caught fish, however the Black/blue out fished all other colors by far. Now, this worked great the first three days, however the midge hatches came on strong and the fish reverted back to the midges and the midge bite out fished the leeches the last 4 days of the week by far. Black/red, Black/silver, Black/copper and anything with a white head fished very well. You just have to make sure you keep rotating the colors, they seem to get bored with one and start to take another color a lot faster after you make the change. My best depth was fishing my fly into 21 to 23 feet of water. This was the most consistent depth for the most grabs, however I witnessed anglers getting on to small runs of fish for a short period of time in 14 to 17 feet but it seemed the bite would just not last any amount of time at that depth.
Areas of the lake that fished well were by far Sandy Point. I found fish on Saturday right away about 9am and the first fish my clients landed was a beautiful 22.5″ Cutthroat along with a few 20″ plus Browns and very, very few rainbows. It was funny, Sandy Point had maybe three boats fishing that area on Saturday and Sunday but once the word traveled, you could have as many as 30 boats trying to get into the action at Sandy. Saturday and Sunday I fished everywhere on the lake, Sandy, Big Hilton, McGee, Stormy Flats, Crooked Creek, Beaver Cove, Aligator Point, Leighton Springs, North Landing and Six Bays. In every locations I metered good fish concentrations but could only get maybe 3 to 4 grabs in each location except for Sandy Point. Sandy, by far is the toughest area to anchor up your boat or watercraft. The point comes out into the lake, almost three quarters of the way across the lake and bends like the top of a candy cane as it goes out into the lake. If the wind doesn’t blow from the correct direction, one side of your boat is anchored in the correct depth of water and the other side is either too deep or too shallow.
We will finally see the true dynamic of Crowley Lake and how its works this year, not like in the past four years. We finally have a traditional snow pack for the lake and not the drought water level we have had for the last 4 years. Ice was on the lake for 3 months or so, in comparison to the last four years or so the ice was on a few weeks and gone. This allowed the water temps to be much higher for the last four openers and the fishing to be much better and more consistant. With the ice being on the lake longer, the fish did not get to eat as much as the last four years and the fish are in fact skinnier because of this situation. Last year the first weeks opener I average over 30 fish to the boat on each of my trips, this year in the 8 days I fished, I averaged 15 fish to the boat. Its a tougher condition, water levels dropping, fish not knowing where to setup and that kills the consistency along with much colder water temps because the water flowing in just as fast as its flowing out. What I think is going to be more exciting this year is we will see the real Crowley Lake dynamics and how it usually works in many areas of the lake. Because we will have good cold flowing water all year long, areas like Little Hilton will finally come to life in July when the water starts to warm up. McGee Bay will be back to what we call, McGee Bay Madness because of all of the cold water running into the bay, we will have a much larger area to fish than the last four years. North Arm and Crooked Creek will see much more fish because of the consistant cold water flow and when the water warms and the algae blooms come on, these areas will again will hold more fish.
I also wanted to add, please be more careful with the catch and release process. I witnessed one angler, that is from my fly fishing club, land a beautiful Cutthroat well over 20″ after close to a ten minute battle. He was very excited as well as he should be so he immediately netted the fish but then pulled him up onto his float tube out of the water. He held this fish close to a minute on his tube and I asked him to put the fish back into the water for a few minutes to help revive the fish and he yelled back to me the fish had been in the water all day! ?????????????? My clients on the boat said, did he really sa that back to you? I said yes, anglers do get upset and think I am a jerk by trying to educate people in proper catch and release methods. I witnessed many anglers over the last week kill fish and don’t even know it! You must not keep a fish out of the water for more than 10 seconds, even when the water is this cold, its not good for the fish. You may release them and think they swim away, but they will go to the bottom and not live. When anglers catch fish, they get excited just as I do. We all get very excited and lose track of time. When you net a fish and pull it up on the boat or on the float tube immediately start a timer in your head. When you fight a fish for 5 minutes, 10 minutes or more, as soon as you net the fish, don’t pull him out of the water. The fish is already exhausted at this point. Allow the fish a few minutes to regain some of its strength. Once you pull the fish up onto the boat or your tube and you reach 10 seconds, please put the fish back in the water for a minute or so they can breath. Try to use a much larger net if possible, these ice cream scoops that bend the fish in half when being netted are harmful and bad for the fish. Try to use a floating net, once you land the fish drop the net and allow the fish to swim around in the net for a few minutes so they can gain back there strength. Try running a 100 yard dash and as soon as you finish, hold your breath for 10 to 15 seconds. This is the time the fish needs to be left alone to breath as much as possible. Please be patient and practice the correct etiquette with our precious resources. If you want to keep fish and eat them that is your right, the limit up until 7/31 is 5 fish any size but if you are catching and releasing fish imporperly, we are loosing our valuable resource. California Fish and Wildlife is not putting many fish into our water ways anymore and we should do everything in our power to help protect them.
I hope this report will help you in the next few weeks at Crowley and look forward to seeing everyone out on the water! Please be safe out on the water and enjoy every moment!
I do love me some “Stillwater” fly fishing……Ernie