Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mattsabasser Scout Report: Stalker Lake

(Above: Lake shot from south shoreline looking north. This is indeed water with a lot of possibilities. This picture was taken 5\14\2010)

There are a number of lakes in Colorado that I have chased rumors about and listened to whispers for years if not nearly a decade. One of these places is Stalker Lake. After many failed attempts this year for earth shattering-off the wall fishing success I decided to finally pull the trigger on one of my top 10 “Must Scout” places. Fishing places are sacred to me and it is rare that I share fishing notes on this level. This is not meant to be the end all article of this place but merely the info I am willing to share from my first dry run of the place.

(Above: The “sign shot” is always a nice touch when doing these location feature articles. To reach Stalker Lake from Denver take I-76 70 mile to Ft. Morgan. Exit on Hwy 34 and head east about another 80 miles to Wray Colorado. Turn north on County Rd. FF and it’s about half a mile to the sign and gravel road to the lake.)

The CDOW warm water stocking and sampling reports are impressive and report a few quality bass in the +5lb range. Located in Wray Colorado, Stalker offers some isolated warmwater fishing with big fish opportunity. The lake is roughly 30 surface acres and as the sign says Stalker Lake contains a wide mix of warmwater species such as catfish, largemouth bass, and stocked trout are common catches for anglers here. Tiger muskie were also stocked or so the legends go. Stalker also contains a healthy population of red ear sunfish, which is only available in a few locations in Colorado.

(Above: How cool are sunfish? They come in so many varieties. The red ear is fairly common in eastern or southern states but not so much in Colorado. These guys don’t traditionally get as big as bluegill or green sunfish even in peak conditions in Colorado but are still pretty fantastic in my book.)

Large trips take a bit of planning in regards to family and work. Don tends to plan trips around his wife’s busy hospital schedule as where I mostly fish around work, fire drills at work and whenever things get piles up at work. Moon phase is also factored in and more of a distraction at times. All things considered we picked the weekend of 5/15 around the new moon phase. Leaving Thursday we would fish Friday and look at other options for Saturday if necessary. To pull these trips off we need to lock in work release forms and many layers of acceptance before proceeding. Weather patterns can change quickly and within a week conditions went from ultra-fab on Monday to “Dude, gear up for heavy wind, rain and possible hail.” “Hail!?”

That covers the preliminary introductions and research. Now the trip begins.

Thursday was good. Stiff breeze. Nothing you couldn’t play through. Friday started out well, flat water topping close to 59\60 degrees. Air temp was going to range from around 50 degrees early to 65 degrees later in the day. Wind would build later. That was a given. Gear up went smooth and The MAD Fishing Show launched as the sun broke over the tree line.

(Above: Early morning gear up and hit the water. We waited until sunrise and then launched. Sometimes Don is the guy that kicks Mr. Sun in the butt to get a move on.)

The lake has a mix of mud\gravel bottom and the weedbed can get heavy in some spots during the summer. Early in the season this water is wide-open and easy casting. The shoreline offers some tree and stump structure but most of the fish cling to the shelf structure at various depths. Anglers can reach 99% of the shoreline, which adds to the reasoning why fish hold in the deeper water areas.

(Above: Overhead map. The boat ramp is at the lower right along with parking and rest rooms. Trails around the lake are easy to travel for the most part but keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and the occasional loose strand of barbed wire.)

As far as gear goes we brought the kitchen sink and then some. I started with a prime Rat-L Trap, spinnerbaits, plastics and started working through the rotation. Don started getting hits on his jig-n-craw combo so my game changed to follow suit. The morning was starting to shape up with a few hits here and there.
(Above: Don getting things going with a nice skunk beater chunk. Look at that flat water with minimal chop! It was not to last.)

Don releases the first fish and within a few minutes hooks into a second. The rod doubles over and he quickly repositions the boat with one twist of electric motor throttle. The fish surfaces once, twice and then is landed. Thinking this was just the beginning of a beauty bucket day we didn’t bother with a tape and weigh. Guesstimate 18-inches and very close to 5lb, as this fish was very dense.

(Above: Now we are talking. Don dialing in some fatty bass. This is a near 5lb fish sporting a fat gut. When Don is in the groove…Look out!)

Shortly after this fish the winds kicked up and everything seemed to slant about 35-degrees to one side. Wind was racing across the lake at 30-50mph gusts. This was blowing the tooner boats across the lake whether we were anchored or not. Positioning the boat was more difficult and casting was near impossible at times.

I was getting bites and landing fish but stuck in “dink town”. Working areas for several moments would produce two or three smaller chunks. To be honest, most of the day was spent weeding through smaller fish for both of us. The sunfish imitations I brought didn’t pan out on the first run. 95% of the tackle bag seemed to get no love whatsoever. The next trip I hope to get more than a few hours to fish before the heavy gusts kick in.

One of the lures that I brought along was the Bill Lewis “Hi-Def” Rat-L-Trap in the sunfish pattern. This thing is a dead ringer for the red ear sunfish, right? Even though I am not crazy about the trebles the color pattern was exactly what I was looking for. No bites on this seven-dollar lure. Maybe next time. I won’t give up on this sunfish pattern completely as it such a close match.

The cold front didn’t help things either. Water temps were on the edge of prime time but now falling back towards the mid 50’s. Once the heavy winds set in conditions turned brutal. My arms were spent from rowing and Don had burnt his trolling motor battery down in half the time it normally takes. By the end of the day were windblown and eager to get back to the boat launch.

If you fish Stalker Lake, please respect it. Release the larger bass to help maintain the quality of the sport. Stalker Lake is a good bass fishing lake but has a lot of potential to be a super lunker lake if everyone works together. The locals can still harvest fish per their long cherished tradition in the form of the plentiful catfish, stocked trout and even the occasional 15’er bass.

We met a lot of really cool people there in Wray and I may be a few weeks behind on the e-mail thank you’s. Lodging and dining can be a real adventure when visiting the eastern rural areas of this amazing state. Research and phone calls paid off big time and we really got lucky and avoided any possible major problems and even got into some of the local flavor.

If you would like to taste some of the local flavor in Wray Colorado, I highly suggest 4th and Main “Upstairs Downtown”. This place is a diamond in the rough and offers good food and atmosphere in what most would consider a very small rural town in eastern Colorado. The place is always hopping and the service is quick-hold the B.S. Cold beer, big screen TV’s, even a salad bar…something for everyone. Just so happens to be located at 4th and Main. Check ‘em out at their website.


Eastern Colorado is a huge contrast to the rugged mountains of the Front Range. The amazing diversity of this state astounds me constantly and I wish that I could taste it all. The plains are the grain-belt\bread basket of this country (and parts of the world for that matter) and equally amazing as the majestic mountains most associate with the state. The mountains are pretty amazing but Colorado also holds a western piece of that great plain and I think that is @##%^ awesome!

Good luck and good fishing.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

Love that photo of the sunrise!.. Will have to ask my friend who is from Colorado (now in florida) if she knows of this lake...thanks for the tour

Coloradocasters said...

This one took me a while to complete, folks and not so much the entertaining adventure story some of my readers may expect. Once in a while I have to throw a bone to the waterhounds of this state and give them something to chew on besides amusing anecdotes of my fishing disasters. Location articles like this are somewhat mandatory in my view to maintain a level of value to a certain percentage of my viewers but I do this very sparingly for many reasons.

My goal overall is to provide as wide array of content as possible blending news you can use with entertaining posts to go along with my shameless bragging. Hopefully I am hitting things on all cylinders for all viewers as the month rolls through. Thank you for your views, rates, comments and just plain putting up with my blogilicious and me. Got ideas on how to make this better? Shoot me an e-mail at Coloradocasters@yahoo.com

Shoreman said...

When you try a new lake, I think the hardest thing is finding the "alley". In my case, it takes several trips to the lake and fishing in several different places, but once you do find it, the bite is on. Looks like you got a good start, though.


http://esoxfever.blogspot.com/ said...

Great report, nice basses and awsome pictures.

I really enjoy it.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

OK, so the one thing I will never get, I don't think, is the fishing for fishing's sake... I saw that huge bass and immediately starting salivating. And then I remembered you don't eat them, you throw them back, and I cried a little.
I love the fact that you are checking out and loving different parts of the State. We live in a pretty beautiful country, and if you take the time to appreciate that, life is all the richer. Even dumb old NY State has some pretty beautiful spots!

Wolfy said...

Very nice, complete assessment of the lake - I especially like the aerial of the lake

Coloradocasters said...

Shoreman: That really is the trick! Yes indeed. Generally speaking 90% of the fish will be in 10% of the lake. Finding the alley is like walking down Main Street of Fish City. I would say we knocked on a few doors but may have missed the alley due to heavy winds.

Thanks, Wolfy. I did a few top view maps and even marked the spots where fish were caught. After a few more trips that info can be considered “bonafide”. Not too shabby for a one time stab…more research required.

Dog Hair in my Coffee: I hear that quite a bit. Harvesting fish is not a bad thing. What I seek is optimum balance and big sport fish. We can have both if people are willing to take out a few smaller fish and toss the big ones back. In the long run this will create a scenario for bigger and better fish overall.

KBF…those are the moments I love. Creatures of the night give their last calls and final barks while the morning twilight sets in. In spring\summer I find the morning sunrise at it’s best. Temps are mild and so are the bugs. Often I take a deep morning breath and chew the sunrise view like a piece of warm toast. Mmmmmm…summer sunrise. =)…