Wyoming outdoors: Healy's growing big bass, tiger muskies

Wyoming outdoors: Healy's growing big bass, tiger muskies

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Rivers and creeks in the Sheridan, Wyo., area have vacillated between fishable to muddy depending on the amount of rain the area has received and the air temperature.

Cool temperatures and light rains mean that the Tongue River, Big and Little Goose creeks, Piney Creek and Clear Creek will be passable fishing well out onto the plains; while warm temperatures and heavy rains render the streams and creeks muddy messes. In short, anglers might want to eschew stream fishing for a few weeks and concentrate on lakes and reservoirs.

One reservoir that has garnered a lot of attention lately is Healy near Buffalo. Healy has been a favorite of area anglers for a number of years. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, the reservoir held a healthy population of rainbow trout. They flourished on the rich diet of aquatic insects, scuds and crayfish. Like most reservoirs, Healy developed problems with rough fish eating most of the food. The trout growth rates diminished. Treatments with rotenone temporarily improved the conditions for trout, but an influx of yellow perch once again posed a fishery problem.

The initial years that perch were in the reservoir were good — the perch ranged from 8 to 12 inches and provided fishing opportunities for entire families. The bigger perch were easy to fillet and very good eating. Unfortunately, the perch overpopulated the lake and the average size dropped to 6 or 7 inches.

The Wyoming Game and Fish’s fishery crew decided to introduce largemouth bass into the reservoir. A few walleye that were netted in Lake DeSmet were introduced as well. The bass have been slowly but surely growing and multiplying, but they weren’t able to stem the high perch numbers.

Last fall I was with a group of anglers that caught two largemouth bass that were 4 pounds or better. The largemouth had nice rotund shapes and looked like they had been eating well.

With the water warming up in the shallows of Healy Reservoir, it’s a sure bet that the largemouth bass will be on the feed. It would sure be fun to try fishing shallow-running plugs during the day and topwater plugs in the evening; fly fishers could do well with leech patterns and Clouser minnows during the day and poppers in the evening.

In 2012 Game and Fish introduced fingerling tiger muskies in the spring and some larger ones in the fall. Last fall, reports of tigers reaching 27 inches came to my attention.

Last week I learned that a 30-inch tiger muskie was caught. That is significant, as the legal length limit for tiger muskies is 30 inches. It means that the fish grew about 2 feet in a year and a half — based on the assumption that the muskie was planted as a 6-inch fish in the fall of 2012.

It seems to me that a growth rate of 12 inches a year is pretty darned good. Anyway, there are some decent-sized muskies in Healy Reservoir that would sure be fun to catch.

I am itching to try some big pike flies like bunnies, bucktails, Clouser minnows, Lefty’s Deceivers, articulated streamers and leeches on those tigers. It would be a real rush to catch a muskie on a fly.

While I have concentrated on Healy Reservoir, there are other lakes and reservoirs in the area to consider. Of course, many anglers fish Tongue River Reservoir year-round for its diverse fish populations — crappie, northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass. Tongue River Reservoir has kept hundreds of anglers happy for many years. Recently, the northern pike population has had a resurgence. The crappies have evaded overharvest for a couple of years with many measuring more than 12 inches long. The smallmouth bass continue to be healthy, with lots of 4- and 5-pound fish caught each year.

Another little sleeper spot is the Sheridan County Park at Kleenburn. Two connected old coal mine strip pits have been reclaimed and offer some fun fishing for largemouth bass, rainbow trout and channel catfish. The ponds are quite small, so bank fishers can do well.

With the ponds and reservoirs warming up and their waters consistently clear, get out and give them a try.

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