Lessons learned from one particular fish

My buddy Scott and I were out ice fishing at Granby recently.  I had moved a ways away to drill our next series of holes when I heard a shout from Scott. Setting the auger down hurriedly, I sprinted over to Scott.  He was totally fixed upon the screen of the Vexilar FL-20.  He had a fish there and Scott was doing his best to entice it to bite while the fish was eyeing the jig to see if it was real or not.  Scott would offer up the jig, jiggling it, lifting, slowly falling, trying everything he knew to get the bite.

After about 5 minutes of cat and mouse, we saw the line twitch, Scott set the hook straight up, and the tip showed the weight of the fish on the hook. He turned the handle, reeling about five turns when the fish suddenly went straight back to the bottom. The fish was trying for all it had to stay , in the safety, of the deep.  After many minutes of coaxing in a tug of war fashion, the fish was persuaded to come up into the ice hole.  Having my leather gloves on, I promptly lipped it, and lifted it onto the ice.

Once on the ice, we measured and weighed the fish.  It was then that we noticed an identification tag on it.  Writing down the tag numbers, finishing the measurements, and taking a couple of quick pictures, we then returned the fish to the water.  It measured  34 1/8" and had tag number 2270.  A quick text message with the data relevant was sent and after about 5 minutes the response that I wanted was received.

Steve, another friend as well as a fellow angler who fishes Granby had texted me that he had also caught that same fish four years earlier and again 12 years previous!  Four years ago, that fish measured 34" long, and twelve years earlier it was 30". In 16 years, that fish had grown 4 1/8".  By calculation, that fish had to have been over 40 years old.  The odd thing is that Steve fishes a totally different part of the lake than I do, and the two times he had caught the fish , she was caught over 2 miles from where I caught it.

This information brought several questions to mind.  Why was this fish so far from it's normal areas?  Did it follow the forage?  Did water temperatures, or water depths play a part in it?  All three times this fish was caught, were at the same time of year down to the month. Perhaps there was a larger concentration of forage this year on this part of the lake?  Could there be a slight current warming the water over on this side of the lake?  Is this fish a part of a school on this side now, perhaps replacing another school that is no longer here?

A trip to the local biologist was in order.  There we found out the results of his fish survey of the lake.  Every year, he sets his nets when the water temperatures are about 40 degrees.  Typically, he will catch one or two large fish in his nets.  This year, the lake experienced very low water levels, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife did not do the normal rainbow trout stocking in March.  The biologist told us that he caught over 15 very large fish in his nets, and all were from deep water in the spring. Interesting findings indeed.  Lake trout, like many other species are seeing more angling pressure than ever.  Selective harvest is encouraged and practiced to maintain the quality of the fisheries and the fish.  With this, Lake trout can be a renewable resource.

While we may never know the exact reasons this particular lake trout was where he was, it does bring up several points.  First, even when structure, or cover looks the same, there may be imperceptible differences that attract fish and hold them there. Water temperatures may be slightly warmer, or slightly colder.  There may be more or less competition amongst similar predator fish. When you boil it all down though, there is one simple truth.  Fish can be anywhere, and at anyplace on the lake.  If you look where they should be, but don't find them, look elsewhere until you do!  After all, isn't that why we fish?  For the challenge of finding the fish we seek?