My best of the past couple of trips was just short of 8 LB. Released right after the photo!
Click to view image
With the brown trout fishing being somewhat disappointing late last summer, I have been relying on what I have heard from friends and biding my time before I made my way up to Wickiup this summer. It was the latest I have ever arrived for the first time during the season since I moved here over 20 years ago now.
I was very concerned last season when many of the 24-26 in. browns I was catching were long and lean, almost emaciated. Browns that should have been 5-7 LB. were 3-4 LB.! After my Sept. 2014 meeting with Bret at the Bend office of ODFW, there approach was a wait and see proposition to how the illegal introduction of bass and brown bullheads would ultimately effect the fishery going forward. I have not felt good about the brown fishery in there ever since!
Over a few trips these past two weeks, I would say that the browns overall seem to be healthier than many I saw last year. I am a little shocked that the really big brown count has only been one official brown trout over 10 LBS. that was brought to the store at the Twin Lakes Resort. Of course there could have been a few more but in most years, the resort hears about most of them.
Steve Kroll and I made it up on the first trip and caught 9 browns that morning before getting off in the early afternoon. Most of them were 4-5 LB. and we didnít catch anything bigger. My next trip produced 7 browns for a full day by myself and the majority again were in that 4-5 LB. class. Right before I got off that evening, I did finally hit a nice hen that was long but did not have much girth and was a little under 8 LB..
On my next outing I was pretty sure my old buddy, Chuck Jones, would be there for his annual end of August trip he makes each year. Sure enough, I saw him on Mon. and told him we could get together the following Fri. if he liked and so we set it up. We met early that morning and worked some flat line runs before the sun got too high and then switched to a deeper drill for the rest of the day. Kroll showed up as well and we stayed in touch via phone throughout the day. The final tally for Chuck and I was 10 browns caught that were all around the same size.....4-5 LBS......clones, as I like to call them. I also hit an aggressive pre-spawn hookjaw kokanee that was over 21 inches and probably almost 3.5 LBS.!
Todd Reid had been up there earlier in Aug. and called one day to say he was catching browns but nothing over 6 LB......again, the majority of his browns were in that same size range of the 4-5 LB. fish. The good news is that most of them looked healthy. One afternoon while having lunch in my boat on shore near the ramp, I noticed a lot of tiny fry on up to some fingerling size bass. LOTS of them unfortunately!
The water level is really low and as of this morning, stood at 22% of capacity around 44,000 acre feet. The current rate of decline is around 1500 acre feet a day. There is only one ramp over at the end of Gull Pt. still in the water but that wonít last for another week. I was there last Mon. and I know that the water was right at the end of the newer concrete extension and just at the top of the old ramp. When I got there on Fri., only 4 days later, it was almost at the end of the old ramp and the three of us estimated it was down about 3-3.5 vertical feet in those 4 days!! Way more than I would have guessed it would be! It is looking like bigger boats than just the car toppers wonít be getting in at the end of this month.
I do believe that Wickiup is a shadow of what it once was and it saddens me to think about it. There just isn't as much forage as there used to be and how could there be with 1,000ís of bass and probably millions of brown bullheads in there now. I can tell you I donít see any stickleback or chub much at all and even the kokanee fry I usually see this time of year seem non-existent. I hope and pray that I am wrong but I suspect we are seeing this famous brown trout fishery in its death throes! If any of you think I am just a pessimist, go back and look into the history of one of the most famous brown trout fisheries of all time. Flaming Gorge on the Wyoming/Utah border was invaded by several invasive species, most notably, lake trout and smallmouth bass back in the 80ís......the brown trout fishery that used to produce monsters over 30 LB. each year back the 70ís was reduced to a lake that rarely produces browns over 10 LB..
I will probably try and hit it again this next week so check back......