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With the future just about as uncertain and as unsafe as it can be, we’ve loaded up the kayaks and fishing gear one last time after a great spring kayak fishing season in the desert southwest.
We’ve been kayak camping in the desert since before the coronavirus pandemic hit. This is a remote area with few people and very limited personal interaction. As far as spread of the virus goes, this would one of the safest spots in the country. Due to the pandemic, the Bureau of Land Management(BLM), has closed nearly all facilities like restrooms, water and showers, but the land remains open for public use under BLM rules. Fishing was still allowed and a couple miles away, so not much reason to head back to the Pacific NW where the virus was spreading and most everything was closed.
Amid this life changing event, we are in this beautiful, natural place. Nature has stayed the same while the human race faces changes that will make life in the future much different than it is today. Paddling out on the lakes and rivers with the stars overhead as the sun rises over the desert mountains is like an escape to another dimension.
As summer approaches in the desert southwest, the temperature increases rapidly. 100°F during the day and 75°F at night makes for an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous environment. Most of the kayak fishing was done in the early morning. I think most of the largemouth bass fishing action was between about an hour before and an hour after sunrise.
Although it’s not cool, it’s the coolest time of the day in the desert. The wind has been mostly calm so the water is usually pretty glassy. It’s an ideal kayak fishing situation and the payoff can be a nice largemouth bass.
As the sun rises over the hills, the temperature rises quickly and the wind increases. We usually start fishing well before sunrise and fish our way back to the launch. Even if the best fishing was around sunrise, the rest of the morning was pretty good as well.
Some days were just about perfect for kayak fishing. The desert wildlife is active in the morning before it gets too hot. Of course, fishing can be better on some days than others, but usually, there’s not much to complain about.
You try to cover as much of the water as you can before it gets too hot, the wind picks up, or the fish stop biting.
After waking up hours before sunrise, paddling five or six miles, getting attacked by mosquitoes and horseflies and baked in the 100° desert sun, the hottest part of the day is still to come. Get loaded up and get ready for a few hours in the desert sauna.
A quick glance at the news on the phone after coming in from kayak fishing is a quick reminder of the harsh reality away from this remote spot. We did not really want to leave, but the heat was becoming a bit too much.
With daytime temperatures reaching 107°F and only dropping into the low 80’s at night, we knew we wouldn’t be able to hang on much longer. Everything, including water and food, was no cooler than 80°. Dehydration or heatstroke is a real risk.
Knowing we were down to the last few days of largemouth bass fishing, we were on the water every day long before sunrise. The skies are dark and full of stars. In the last few days, we saw a few meteors enter the atmosphere leaving bright green and white trails.
It was also easy to get going early because that’s when the largemouth bass fishing seemed to be the best. I caught a lot of nice fish before the sun came up.
Sunrise means that it is going to get hot very quickly, but it also means that the mosquitoes will no longer be attacking you. The best time of the day for fishing is about half over.
The early morning fishing continued to be good. I think that quietly moving in on these fish with a kayak was a key factor in our success.
Our last day of fishing turned out to be a hot, but spectacular day. Partly overcast, which is break from the normal clear blue skies, and calm desert wind.
The last largemouth bass on the last day of the kayak fishing trip turned out to be a nice one.
We paddled through the Colorado River backwaters to the launch beach for the last time this season, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds.
By the time we loaded our gear and drove back to our campsite, it was 105°. We’d spent the last couple weeks in the desert with the temperature over 100° every day. If it wasn’t for this desolate tree in the desert that provided shade in the afternoon, we wouldn’t have been able to stay that long. We were baked, time to get out of the oven.
We posted this blog and are currently in transit back to our home in the Columbia River Gorge. The pandemic has already caused major disruptions in this area of small towns with large cities an hour’s drive away. I’m not sure what we’ll find when we get there, but there may be a delays in blog entries.
We’ve started a WatermanAtWork Instagram page and will try to fill in the gaps between blog posts with photos and comments on Instagram. The link to the WatermanAtWork Instagram page is here on the blog in the “Links” section.
Check back soon and stay safe!
When the coronavirus hit the United States and travel restrictions were announced, we were camping in the desert southwest, kayak fishing for largemouth bass. Services and personnel on this BLM land were reduced, but the land stayed open. Far from civilization and close to good fishing, we were fortunate indeed to be self quarantined here. The internet service is slow and intermittent, no TV, all there is to do is go fishing, so that’s what we did.
Whenever the wind allowed, we were kayak fishing for largemouth bass. With the arrival of spring weather and warmer river water, the bass fishing improved daily. Some days were a bit slower than others, but overall, the fishing was very good with some nice fish caught.
With the calm wind and full moon lighting up the desert and water, we started fishing at night. Getting up about 2AM as the moon was high in the night sky, there was enough light to see. As we had hoped, the fishing at night was good. Fishing for largemouth bass during the day is challenging enough, it’s even more challenging at night.
Fishing at night adds another dimension for the kayak fisherman. The fishing was good in the middle of the night, so it wasn’t that hard to get up to go fishing. A few hours of night fishing, the usually pretty good sunrise action and maybe a few more fish before noon.
The cool desert night air causes the warming river water to steam until the sun rises enough to raise the temperature a few degrees. A spectacular time to be on a quiet kayak on a calm river
Early mornings are a busy time in the desert around the Colorado River. Water is life in the desert so all the animals make there way down to it sooner or later. Beavers, birds, fish, bugs and this curious desert coyote were all busy.
The lure that was really working for us was a 5″ watermelon plastic worm. Using a worm hook and Texas rig, this setup was relatively weedless and caught a lot of largemouth bass, day and night. When you have to replace lures because the fish keep chewing them up, the fishing has got to be pretty good.
We were hoping the wind would stay calm during the full moon so we could get out for more great night fishing. Get up at 2AM, check the wind and head out if it wasn’t too windy. Catching largemouth bass like this makes it easier to wake up when many people are just going to sleep.
With a few nice largemouth bass caught at night, fish caught as the sun rises are icing on the cake.
As the wind usually picks up in the late morning, we fished our way back to the launch. Usually, we can get another fish or two on the way back, sometimes you get lucky and get a bigger fish.
The fishing is good, the weather is nice and the desert with a full moon is spectacular, which makes it more of a harsher contrast to what is happening in the world. The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it and what the future will bring is anybody’s guess. A trip to the nearest city for supplies brings that reality into sharp focus.
Being in a high risk group, I do everything I can to avoid human contact. Being in this remote area makes that a little easier. I camp and fish as far away from civilization as possible and hope I don’t get infected. I use public WiFi to post to this blog, each time I do that, I risk exposure to the virus. Like everyone else, hard decisions must be made.
While hoping the pandemic starts to stabilize, all I have to do is go fishing, so that’s what we’ve been doing. Fortunately, fishing is still allowed. The only time I see or speak to another person is if they are in a boat. Since we get up and on the water early, it’s about as remote as you can get.
The weather added a few extra twists with several intense rainstorms and flash flooding. These storms are usually accompanied by strong wind, so kayak fishing was out of the question. The days following these storms were pretty good fishing days under overcast skies.
With overcast skies overnight obscuring the full moon, the night fishing wasn’t as good as it had been. Night or day, the fishing was about the same. At times, it was pretty good.
When the skies cleared up, we were back out on the water at night under the full moon. The night fishing for largemouth bass was still good.
These wild desert burros were warming up in the early morning sun.
Some days were windy and we couldn’t go fishing. When you know the fish are biting, that sucks. When the wind is calm, it is about as good kayak fishing gets.
We caught a lot of largemouth bass and saw way more than we caught. The water was mostly very clear and the fish were easily spooked. Hooking a largemouth bass and catching one are two different things. We caught a few, but we lost a few as well.
The night fishing under the full moon remained on fire. There was one night when I caught seven or eight nice largemouth bass before sunrise. Once your eyes get used to the moonlight, you can see pretty well. If you use a headlamp, or take a flash photo, you’re temporarily blinded.
Aside from blinding you, a light also attracts mosquitoes. There are mosquitoes everywhere near the water in the desert and they come out at night. At times, it can be like an Alfred Hitchcock movie so you have to be prepared. Mosquitoes biting, largemouth bass biting, pretty much the full effect.
Day or night, you never know when a big bass is going to come out of the reeds and give you a run for the money.
There are some big largemouth bass in the lower Colorado River watershed. There are rivers, lakes, canals, backwaters and ponds that all hold big largemouth. First cast or last, that big bass might be ready to bite.
The kayak fishing under the full moon continued to be good. At the peak of the full moon, I caught nearly all the fish for the day at night. Maybe a couple, sometimes pretty nice fish hit after the sun came up, but the best action was at night and before sunrise.
As the sun rises over the eastern desert hills, I paddled around this backwater, casting everywhere I thought a largemouth bass might be waiting. This is just about perfect kayak fishing conditions.
Most of the time the water is very clear, which is the unnatural result of the river dams. The water level of the Colorado River and adjacent waterways can rise or fall quickly. When conditions are right and the bass are biting, it’s great kayak fishing action.
The full moon was waning and wind was in the forecast as we headed out for the last day of kayak fishing for a few days. I used the time off to edit a lot of photos and video and dump the camera memory cards. This was the last nice largemouth bass I caught right before sunrise on the last day of a great run of fishing.
We’re kind of stuck out here in the desert until further notice and not exposing ourselves or anyone else to the coronavirus, might as well keep fishing. It might be my last chance. This is a nasty virus and it is going to affect everything in a big way. Hopefully they will get it under control soon and our way of life won’t go down the drain. Number one thing is to stay safe and not contract the coronavirus. Everything else can wait. Keep checking back for proof that the fish are still here.
It’s been a long time since we made a kayak fishing blog post. We are camping some distance from the nearest city so it’s difficult to get there to use WiFi to make blog posts. We don’t carry our laptop into the desert, only the stuff we need to camp and fish. Today, we are in town downloading photos and video to the laptop, tomorrow we will upload the blog post and head back out into the desert because the fishing is getting good as the weather warms up. Here in the city, there is panic and hoarding as coronavirus fear, unfounded or not, has gripped the town and we are more than willing to get out.
Now that the water temperature of the Colorado River and adjacent waters has warmed enough to get the fish biting after a long winter break, the biggest problem is the wind. The nights and early mornings are still cool, causing the warming water to steam until the sun comes up.
Even if it is cool and overcast, the fishing in the early mornings before the wind comes up has been pretty good. We’ve caught some nice largemouth bass that makes the paddle out in the dark early morning well worth it.
Paddling around in the dark is a bit spooky. There isn’t much boat traffic, but there are floating and submerged logs and trees. Morning is a popular time of day for bugs. You can’t see them, so it’s best to stay covered up. Not too many dangerous animals, but you still have to be alert because there are things you need to look out for, like this water snake.
When fishing on the lakes connected to the Colorado River, the largemouth bass tend to hang out in and under the vegetation that line the banks. Casting into these shoreline plants is normally where you find a lot of bass.
It doesn’t seem that big fish would be hanging out in dense reeds and shallow water, but they are. Extracting big bass from these reeds is quite a challenge.
We’ve tried a number of fishing spots as the water warms up and the fishing gets better. The lakes warm up quicker than the Colorado River, especially the shallow sections. Because water is always being released from dams, the river nearly always has some current and the water, from the bottom of the upstream reservoir, is colder.
The weather is not the only concern here in the American southwest. Wildfires are a fact of life in the American west and the Colorado River basin is no exception. A familiar sight anywhere in the western United States.
Along with the persistent wind, there have been a number of severe rain events that have caused flash flooding. In between storms, there has been some good fishing, but you don’t want to be out on a kayak during a desert thunderstorm.
When the wind is calm, it’s tough to beat a beautiful desert morning as the sun comes up over the low lying hills.
As winter fades and spring takes over, the fishing is getting better every day.
The largemouth bass are currently in pre-spawn mode. They are making spawning nests and hanging around the shallow water reeds. The clear water makes the fish easy to spook, sneaking up on a kayak does a good job at this. Pretty soon, mating will take place and the bass will be guarding these spawning nests and attacking anything that comes close.
Even in pre-spawn mode, there are plenty of big largemouth bass moving around. Usually the big bass are the first to become active as the water warms up and that certainly seems to be the case.
We are looking forward to more great fishing as long as the wind does not shut down kayak fishing operations. This is a great time of the year in the desert and we want to take advantage of every day we can.
Of course we don’t know what’s going to happen with the whole coronavirus deal. Common sense seems to be in short supply and the “every man for himself” syndrome seems to have gripped the population. We’re headed back out into the desert wondering what civilization is going to look like the next time we come to town. We continue to make photos and video and will publish them as long as we are able, so check back soon.
The early spring desert wind has been putting quite the damper on the kayak fishing for largemouth bass here in the desert southwest. Non-stop wind day and night. Seldom less than 10 mph and often 20-30 mph has kept the kayaks off the water. It got to the point where we were only fishing a couple times a month, that’s barely fishing at all. We decided that we would try fishing when the wind was most calm, which happened to be between midnight and sunrise.
I’d been fishing for largemouth bass at night before while visiting my uncle in Tennessee. I went fishing with a couple guys using the most basic black plastic worms. I figured “middle of the night and black worms” would result in zero fish and a lot of beer drinking, but the fishing was actually really good and we caught a lot of bass. We decided to give it a try here in the desert and see how it would work.
Even though it was dark, once your eyes got adjusted, it was easy to see by the light of the full moon. Light, reflections and shadows are tricky, you must be extra careful at night. Everything looks different than during the day.
Using Texas rigged plastic worms and fishing in the reeds, the fishing was good. Largemouth bass fishing is exciting during the day, it’s even more exciting at night.
This large bass jumped a few times and headed back into the lakeside reeds but was too big to squeeze between the reed clumps otherwise I probably would have lost it.
As the eastern sky begins to get light, the largemouth bass fishing remains good.
Even before the sun comes up, a number of nice largemouth bass had been caught(and lost). Makes it easy to get up to go fishing in the middle of the night.
Even if the wind comes up early at nine or ten in the morning, we already have a full day of fishing in the books. Night fishing will be in the program from here on.
We are out in the boonies without a computer or internet. The kayak fishing has been a bit slow, but it has really turned around and we have a lot of photos, video and story to upload as soon as we get back to civilization. Keep checking in because the kayak fishing action gets better every day.
It’s hard to come up with material for a kayak fishing blog when you can’t do much kayak fishing. Unfortunately, that’s the position we’ve been in for the past couple months. The winter months are not prime fishing time, even if it’s nice and sunny, but the big factor the past few months has been the nonstop wind. Nearly every day for the past few months has been 5-10 mph with many days in the 10-20 mph range with a few 30-35 mph days in there. When one of the few calm days comes along, we are out there at the crack of dawn before the wind comes up in the early afternoon.
Most winter desert mornings, the wind is calm or light and variable. When the conditions are right, this area is great for kayak fishing as well as exploring the lower Colorado River basin.
The Colorado River in this area is much as it is for miles upstream. There is usually a steady current that can be strong at at times. The fish tend to hang out near the shore vegetation, but the current can make fishing difficult. There are numerous backwaters and river channels that have fishing potential.
Even with a calm day, the temperature of the river water this time of year can be too cold for good fishing. Water released from the bottom of reservoirs behind dams can be pretty cold, putting a chill on the fishing.
With everything else putting a damper on the kayak fishing, the wind came packaged with rain. Heavy downpours can cause flash flooding in the desert. When you see a halo around the sun in the desert, that means rain is probably on the way.
After a couple months without anything near a successful kayak fishing trip, a ten hour light wind day between days of 15-30mph wind was the only opportunity. We headed out around Squaw Lake because with the uncertainty of the wind, we did not want to venture miles from the launch only to face a double digit afternoon wind.
To add to the list of fishing challenges, the water level was low and the water itself was crystal clear. You could see big largemouth bass in the shallows and even bigger carp and tilapia as well. We were fishing by sight, casting where we actually saw fish. Of course the fish could see us too and were easily spooked. In spite of all this, I finally landed my first largemouth bass of 2020, having to yank it out of the riverside reeds.
It was great to have a fish on the line again. After a good fight, this nice bass was released with only a sore jaw and internet fame.
I caught a couple more bass but they were smaller and had a couple half hits, so I’m hoping we’ve rounded the dead fishing zone of winter and off to what is usually a good time for bass fishing here. Keep checking in because the fishing has to be getting better!