What a zoo this place was for the first hour. The crowd was insane. Even with a 3AM alarm set, 4AM gate show up, I was third at the gate. At 6AM the gate rolled open and the place turned into a fiasco. A lot of folks rolled right past the check in booth altogether. The system just gets worse every year. No traffic control for 50+ cars at the gate and virtually no crowd control for the 100+ people fishing. One ranger with a truck isn’t going to be able to cover this entire facility. The mention of law enforcement that I don’t think anyone actually saw added no help to calm the insanity. This could very well be the Keystone Cops of fishery management.
This sounds abrasive, but this was once a trophy bass and pike fishery that you had to see to believe. Now its a run of the mill public fishery with obvious signs of abuse. Is this typical for a wildlife refuge? I don't know but its a far cry from what this place deserves.
Here is a shot of the parking lot at 5AM. The gates open at 6 and the link below is a vid shot of the madness about 15 minutes before they opened her up.
Ladora was a free for all. People were practically climbing on top of each other to fish. This is just crazy combat fishing and something I am not a big fan of. The crowd and slow action literally pushed me off the big lake and onto Lake Mary. There I caught my “skunk beater” bass on a jig-grub combo. I saw a few pike caught that were the standard 24-26”. A far cry from what most anticipated.
(Boy, was I glad to see this fish. Nothing seemed to work except this off the wall jig-grub combo. Maybe I just needed to find a fish that wasn’t scared for its life.)
So what does the future hold for the RMA? It’s not hard to quantify “the best is already over” statement spoken by most who know the property’s history. This may be true. I also think some major factors are in play right now for the arsenal that tell the rest of the story. Fishing workshops were allowed in before the regular crowd and they worked the fish pretty well. This kept the opener action down to a dull roar.