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Not sure if this has been posted yet but:

Fort Collins - As anyone who has spent much time at it knows, fishing is mostly about windows of opportunity. Hit things right and you're smothered with action. Miss that sweet spot in time and you're doomed to playing catch-up.

Along Colorado's Front Range, nothing illustrates this point more vividly than Horsetooth Reservoir. It's a situation that exists both for the short haul and over a longer and more important period. Each requires explanation.

This elongated water repository in the foothills just west of the city always seems to tease us with equal parts excitement and uncertainty. Following a span marked by extreme drawdown, forage problems and ultimate renewal, both conditions remain solidly in place.

Horsetooth, 1,899 surface acres of visual enchantment, is chock full of good fish and the scene of one of the best winter bites that hardly anyone knew about. But, given the in-and-out nature
	Ever the fish magnet, Chad LaChance attracted this nice rainbow trout. (Post / Charlie Meyers) 	
of weather patterns and a pervasive problem with oxygen levels, consistent success has proved elusive - unless you happen to be acquainted with Chad LaChance.

Maybe it's the fact that his house is situated directly on the lake. Or that he's a hard-wired tournament competitor. Or that fish seem to follow him around like some sort of aquatic pied piper.

In any case, LaChance understands Horsetooth like most people know the insides of their refrigerators. What he has to tell about an impoundment that suffered badly from a half-decade of drawdown is that the lake's recovery is almost complete.

"The bite for trout in late December was so good as to be almost unbelievable," said LaChance, who used his bass boat to access big rainbows holding in schools 13 to 25 feet deep.

A regular in regional bass competitions, he gets these lunkers on standard jerkbaits and soft plastics, offerings that also attract the occasional
	Horsetooth trout, top, go for bass lures such as this Rat-L Trap. A growing walleye population, bottom, will bite better when the water warms. (Post / Charlie Meyers) 	
cold-water walleye.

Following a cold snap, LaChance scored again in early January, then endured a prolonged period when ice gripped both boat ramps.

Early last week, he pushed through a thin layer that tinkled beneath the boat like tiny bells. Not surprisingly, the water temperature read 34 degrees, much too cold for a reliable walleye bite, a push even for trout.

When bitter cold descended last weekend, the entire lake sprouted a lid. No one can predict when winter next might loosen its grip, but LaChance will be the first to know. A real estate broker and professional guide who spends at least one day each week at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Loveland, he scopes both boat ramps on his way to work. LaChance guides at Horsetooth, Carter and other lakes in the region. He can be reached at 970-231-0252.

So much for the short term. The larger story at Horsetooth is the surge in the fishery

following those desperate years when the level was drained to dead pool to accommodate dam repair. During the long drawdown, vegetation sprouted thickly on the exposed bottom in a way prized by anglers for its "new reservoir" syndrome, but not without adverse consequences.

The reservoir made news recently for a problem related to oxygen deficiency, a condition oddly intertwined with the very condition that rejuvenated the fishery.

Ken Kehmeier, Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist, reasons that the decay of an estimated 2.3 million kilograms of dried vegetation has caused oxygen levels to sink below the 5 parts per million that qualifies as official deprivation. This shouldn't suggest that Horsetooth's fish are in trouble, he said.

"The whole lake doesn't go to low oxygen and fish have the ability to move," he said. "Everything is doing well."

Air mixing should solve much of the problem as the season progresses, Kehmeier said.

"The only real problem comes when the lake stratifies in late summer and fall. Then you'll find most of the fish in the top 30 feet."

Meanwhile, anglers can expect continued success for trout, which prosper on a reliable diet of zoo- plankton and invertebrates. While walleye continue to grow in number and size, this species is more dependent upon the emerald and spottailed shiners DOW introduced. When these forage fish decline, as they occasionally do, piscivorous predators such as walleye suffer.

A burgeoning yellow perch population helps take up the slack, as does a solid base of crayfish, foundation for a fine smallmouth fishery.

"Right now, you'll find walleye along the tops of the flooded bushes where the yellow perch hang out," LaChance said.

How long this three-species bloom, this chance in time, lasts at Horsetooth remains to be seen; Kehmeier pegs these new-lake blushes at three to five years.

But, at least for now, anglers who wish to reach beyond the shore will have to wait for boat ramps to thaw. The short-term window has frozen shut.

Charlie Meyers can be reached at 303-820-1609 or [email][email protected][/email].

[me=Jay_In_Parker] [/me]
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