May angling has been hot and cold

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Hundreds of anglers from across the state will wet a line in Steamboat and Pearl lakes this weekend.

This traditionally is one of the best times to be at the high-mountain reservoirs 30 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs. This holiday weekend, the fish may or may not be biting.

Area fishing experts say the lakes, surrounded by views of snow-covered peaks, have been on-again, off-again this month.

"That's fishing," Brett Lee said. "We had some guys come in here 10 days ago and say Pearl was the best they've ever seen it. Some guys from the shop went up two days later and didn't do any good."

Lee is one of the owners of Straightline Outdoor Sports in downtown Steamboat.

There is no doubt that Steamboat Lake is full of fish. Despite the drought conditions of the past few years, the reservoir always fills because it drains a large Alpine area and is close to the water's source. It has received more stocked trout than typical in recent summers because other reservoirs have been too low to support the fish.

A Wednesday evening trip to scout Hahn's Peak Lake and Steam-boat Lake produced a single fish. The rainbow was caught out of Hahn's Peak Lake, where a seasonal stream burst from beneath a snowbank and plunged into the lake.

Steamboat Lake is brim full, and there are several factors that could be contributing to cold fishing reports, Lee said.

That the lake is so full could mean it has inundated lakeshore areas and flushed out a lot of food for the trout -- small worms, for example. Water clarity is not ideal, and that could explain why, at times, bait fishers are doing very well and fly fishers in float tubes aren't doing well.

"We talked to some guys who were out in float tubes and didn't do well," Lee said. "They moved up into the feeder streams and hammered them. Some people kill those fish, but these guys released them."

In spring, fishing feeder streams can be a controversial subject -- rainbows and cutthroats move up tributaries in the spring to spawn. Lee said they don't have much reproductive success in Steamboat Lake.

Fishing days are long at Steamboat Lake this month -- the sun didn't dip behind Diamond Peak until 8:10 p.m. Wednesday. During the preceding half hour, a few smaller fish came to the surface to take tiny insects that had begun hatching in the twilight. The bugs behaved like micro caddis flies.

The nearly cloudless skies that have prevailed for almost two weeks aren't helping midday fishing.

Steamboat Lake is a magical place this time of year, with sandhill cranes and a variety of waterfowl conducting noisy courtship rituals. Sometimes, the fishing is red hot, as well.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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