Tough Kayak Fishing on the Colorado River

We have been experiencing some tough kayak fishing conditions on the lower Colorado River and it’s pretty easy to see why.

The water level in the river and connected backwaters has been rising and falling. Some of the water level changes have been pretty extreme in a relatively short time. The water, recently released from the bottom of an upstream reservoir, is clear and cold. This scenario usually causes a downturn in largemouth bass fishing success.

Unfortunately, there is a bigger problem. Just about everywhere on the river is choked with vegetation. It’s likely it is some kind of watermilfoil, possibly Eurasian Milfoil that seems to be taking over the freshwater in the western US. Everywhere that largemouth bass would hang out is choked with thick mats of weeds.

Watermilfoil choking the Colorado River backwaters

We experienced a Eurasian Milfoil outbreak in one of the backwaters, or sloughs, of the Columbia River. The slough was completely choked off with the invasive milfoil. They poisoned the slough to kill the milfoil, but it still grows along the shallow water in the Columbia River.

Using herbicide to kill Eurasian Milfoil on the Columbia River

The Colorado River might not be poisoned since it is the source of agricultural irrigation and drinking water. While the long, cold Pacific Northwest winter may slow the expansion of the invasive Eurasian Milfoil, nothing like that will happen in the hot desert southwest. Eurasian milfoil can take over a body of water up to twenty feet deep in less than two years, decreasing water oxygen levels and displacing native plants and animals.

With the milfoil clogging most of the areas largemouth bass normally live, the fishing on the lower Colorado River has been exceptionally poor. Most of the largemouth bass we have caught among the milfoil this year have been small. Like any good fisherman, we are always optimistic that no matter how poor the fishing was today, we still are out there before dawn the next day.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught at night by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

I did manage to catch one decent bass that put up a great fight and was almost lost in a clump of milfoil.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with

This is the biggest bass I’ve caught in a long time.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

On the surface, everything looks fine. To the untrained eye, the huge clumps of milfoil look normal, like kelp in the ocean.

Colorado River sunrise

It seems like the milfoil is here to stay, at least for the near term. With all the problems in the country today, invasive milfoil won’t be much of a priority, even though it endangers the country’s water supply. We will look around and try everywhere to get away from the milfoil and back to kayak fishing for largemouth bass. Stay tuned.

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