The water is falling! The water is falling! Yes, I’m paraphrasing Chicken Little and like the fable from which this famous outcry has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a mistaken belief that disaster is imminent, the moral to my story is to not be the chicken jumping to conclusions.
My paraphrase is most literal in that the water really is falling. We’ve reached that time of year when our reservoirs have begun to drain in exchange for making our corn and grass grow. Some lakes are more affected than others, but just about all Colorado reservoirs will experience their annual drops in the coming weeks. Falling or low water levels change the fishing and have a way of sending anglers into the same kind of hysteria that Chicken Little experienced. Like most versions of the tale, the outcry is all for nought.
Fishing reservoirs that are low or losing water is different and can admittedly be tougher. I field all kinds of questions from anglers blaming poor fishing on falling water levels. But disaster, or at least fishing failure, is certainly not imminent. Anglers can still have great success on the big impoundments if they keep a few things in mind.
First and foremost; fish to your conditions. By that I mean, make your angling decisions based on what you are looking at right then, not what success you had last week or month. Falling water moves fish, all kinds of fish, around within the lake. When it comes to dropping water levels, past performance of a spot in no way predicts future gains. Instead, try to fish spots that have similar water depths as the area you last had success on. Fish areas immediately adjacent to deep water. Try steeper banks, too.
Second, expect that the fish are feeding to some degree. If you’re not catching them, change something in your presentation. As a guide this time of year, I’ll go no more than about 15 minutes without a bite before I change lures, depths or locations, speed or some other variable. This is the peak feeding season for most fish in our reservoirs and the water is as warm as its going to get. It adds up to active fish for anglers to exploit.
The third adjustment is fishing early, late, or during low light conditions. Fish will make feeding forays into shallow water making them more catchable before they move out to deeper, safer water to rest. You can cover a lot of areas during these times confident that your offering will be eaten if you get it in front of a fish. First or last light are great times to try new spots.
The water is falling. Don’t be chicken and conclude that the fishing is poor. The lakes may look different, the ramps a little longer, but fish are still there. It’s only the anglers that don’t adjust with the water levels that end up crying like Chicken Little.