Talk about a different Easter weekend. We had temperatures more like May than early April.
Typically, the young ones are searching for Easter eggs in the snow and dressed more for winter than a fine spring day. Fishermen and women responded to the upswing in the thermometer by enjoying a variety of angling environments throughout Cody and the Big Horn Basin.
Some rivers had a spike in flows due to the warm days and nights. Snowmelt at the lower elevations raised the flows and created turbid water conditions on the North and South forks of the Shoshone by Sunday, while the lower Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone rose a “smidge” but remained fairly clear above Pat O’Hara and Paint Rock creeks. The Greybull River lost its ice last week, but didn’t really rise much because most of the flows begin high in the Absaroka Mountains where temps remain cold and below freezing at night.
The lower Shoshone River below Buffalo Bill Dam has been rising since early last week as the Bureau of Reclamation and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department plan to have some flushing flows begin April 7 to clear sediment from potential spawning gravels and to clear the river of impacted debris and moss.
Hopefully, these flushing flows result in better spawning habitat for the rainbow and cutthroat trout population to utilize April through June. Having wild trout recruited to the river is a win-win for anglers and the trout population.
Water quality remains very good, although much higher in flow than we had all winter below the dam downriver to below the Corbett Bridge. Below Willwood Dam, however, the water quality is gray and the flows seem higher than those in the town of Cody. Once the flushing flows are finished, the lower Shoshone will probably remain high since the normal time to turn water into irrigation canals and lateral ditches historically begins April 15.
Blue-winged olives are hatching heavily in the stretch below Buffalo Bill Dam downriver to the Buck Creek drainage. These tiny mayflies provide great dry fly action and their nymph imitations work well when fished below the surface. Midges are also active, so fly fisherman can have fun matching the hatches throughout the day.
Anglers should expect good fishing until the spring runoff impacts Buffalo Bill Reservoir sometime in June, which darkens the lower Shoshone River water quality. Then, for six to eight weeks, the water remains a funky brown color before the river clears enough to provide a quality angling experience the rest of the summer, fall and winter.
Local lakes really turned on last week with the warmer days and the resultant rise in water temperatures. East Newton Lake, a longtime popular body of water is managed by special regulations (read the Wyoming Fishing regulations for full details on restrictions) for trophy brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and splake, a hybrid sterile cross between brook and lake trout. West Newton is a put-and-take (stocked) Yellowstone cutthroat trout fishery where limits are allowed with no special use regulations in effect.
Hogan and Luce reservoirs are approximately 25 minutes north of Cody. Both these lakes fished well last week and should only get better as the warming water increases insect hatches and trout feeding activity. Hogan is managed like West Newton Lake where anglers can possess a limit and there are no special regulations in effect. Luce Reservoir, however, is managed like East Newton Lake and has signs posted on the road into the reservoir that only a blind angler cannot see and read.
For some reason, Luce gets hammered by the bait-and-bucket crowd when there is also ample signage in place at Hogan Reservoir’s parking and camping area to prevent any mistakes by anglers thinking both lakes allow harvest. Luce does not. It is strictly a catch-and-release, flies and lures only, no bait of any kind allowed fishery. Please respect the angling resource by obeying Wyoming’s fishing regulations that are clearly articulated in the regulations magazine.
April 1 began the annual closure on the west arm of Buffalo Bill Reservoir and the North Fork of the Shoshone River and its tributaries. The closure extends well inside the Shoshone National Forest to Newton Creek. The North Fork remains open to angling above Newton Creek throughout the rest of its drainage.
Yellowstone Park waters that enter into the upper North Fork are closed until Memorial Day weekend, or later. This closure ends July 1 on the North Fork of the Shoshone, but remains in effect on the west arm of Buffalo Bill Reservoir from the entrance of Sheep and Rattlesnake creeks to where the North Fork enters the reservoir until July 15.
Again, it is a mystery and also very upsetting as to why anglers cannot read fishing regulations and willfully choose to ignore these regulations rather than respect and obey them. Owning a fishing license does not mean you can fish wherever nor however one wants. Just like a hunting license, the responsibility to know and understand these regulations lies with the license holder.
Since April 1, I have witnessed more than just a couple of fishermen in these closed waters. Game wardens have a lot of territory to cover, I know, but if fisheries are to remain healthy, the people in red shirts need to enforce these specially regulated waters on the North Fork, East Newton and Luce reservoirs with more aggression and consistency – and write a lot more tickets to violators to teach well deserved lessons – if the Cody Area 2 Region fisheries are to remain outstanding for anglers into the future.