Monday, July 28, 2014

Our policy on trophy fish.

Anybody that has spent much time around WWO knows that we value our trophy fisheries. It's not only important for our business but for future generations to ensure these trophies are taken care of. Those of you who know me personally also know that I will never chastise or go overboard when someone legally harvests a fish. I firmly believe that it is their prerogative to do what the will with a fish. In fact I make it a point to congratulate them on their catch. Inside I blame myself for not doing a good enough job of educating those around me about the value of these fish.

Those around us also know that I pride myself and my company on taking the average everyday working Joe on what is hopefully a very educational and worth while trip if not the trip of a lifetime. I absolutely love getting some their biggest fish ever. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished as a professional fisherman.

(This is a picture of my father and I with a fish released many years ago)

For those of you who have ever considered booking a trip with us or any outfitter for that matter, I feel its important for you to understand our policy on trophy fish. Below is an email from a client I had last week and my response. I have removed anything of personal nature because it is not important who this person is but rather the general theme of the emails. I post these publicy not to criticize ( I would happily have this customer on my boat again) but rather as an educational piece as to why I have the trophy fish policy that I do. I hope you enjoy it and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, feel free to share it.

From my customer:


Had fun and learned a lot fishing with you last Thursday at Taylor
Reservoir.  Was very heartbreaking to release what was for me the catch
of a lifetime.  I am not typically a trophy hunter / fishermen and
justify the cost of my outdoor hobbies by the food it puts on the
table.  I was very disappointed to find out I have been disqualified
from the master angler program because I released my fish.  Northern
Pike are not wanted in waters west of the continental divide and while
releasing them is not illegal, it is discouraged and therefore
disqualifies the fisherman from the master angler program.  I have tried
to understand your reasoning on this one but keep coming up short.

I have had hundreds of people like and comment on the picture of my
trophy fish on facebook.  My brother is the only person who seems to
agree with your policy that forced me to release my catch.  I think in
light of the further disappointment your future customers will have if
they wish to document their Northern Pike catches while on your boat I
would urge you to change your policy in regard to that species.  I also
think your policy would be frowned upon by the DOW.

I had a wonderful time with you.  You seem to be a good guy and I do not
want to cause you any trouble.  I know you are trying to make a living
and provide for your family, so am I.  Beyond the disappointment of not
being able to document my catch, we really could have used the meat.  It
was a big stretch for me to spend the money to go out on your boat.  I
know fishing is never guaranteed and this was just a lucky break, but it
would have really helped to off-set the cost of my day with you if we
had some pike steaks in the freezer.  I realize I probably am not the
kind of customer you are looking for so the business you may have lost
because of making me release the fish will not really effect you.

I wish you the best and hope your businesses prosper.  It was an honor
to meet you and you have my respect.  I love the fact that you built
your businesses form the ground up.  Although we didn't get to talk much
about our faith I am pleased you are  involved in your church and youth
group.  I get a little nervous when I find out people are in a
non-denominational church because I have no idea what they might be
teaching.  I hope your Church is solid and believes the Bible is true
and useful to guide every aspect of our lives.  A person can't  make
that assumption anymore.  If you have any interest in what I do please
visit www.**************.org.  We have some mission trip
opportunities for like-minded believers and if I could ever be of
service to you or your church I would be willing.

God bless you,

****** ********

My Response:


Quite honestly I was taken aback by your email. I read it while on a trip this
morning and the more I thought about it the more it rubbed me the wrong way. I
first want to make it very clear that I too very much enjoyed the day. You and
your cousin's family were a pleasure to be around and it was very satisfying for
me as a guide to have someone get so excited over such a quality fish; as it
should be.

However, I cannot put into words my disappointment when I hear that someone
simply does not understand the treasure that a trophy fish is, and for that to
be reason not to use my services in the future is maddening. You had clearly
been fishing that lake a very long time and never even come close to a fish of
that size. I overheard you talking to your brother on the phone mentioning that
you had learned more in our 7 or 8 hours on the boat than you had in 20 years.
Further more you mentioned that we fished areas of the lake you had never even
considered and in ways you had never seen. The opportunities you now have to
catch trophy fish in the future are endless largely in part to the educational
piece of the trip. I know for a fact that little things you learned such as
trolling speed and not to point your rod at the fish would have almost ensured
you would have never caught a fish like that.

I make it incredibly clear on all of my web and print media that my company
endorses catch and release fishing on ALL trophy fish including northern pike. I
very much believe in population control of predatory fish such as the DOW
promotes on certain waters with certain species. But this can be accomplished by
the harvesting of smaller fish. Releasing large fish ensures that my children
and your new grandson will have the opportunity to catch trophy fish in their
lifetime as well. Again, this is very clear in all of my advertising and if this
was problem for you, I would suggest that you should have never stepped into my

Catch and release fishing is absolutely the standard in professional fishing. I
know for a fact the three guides here in Colorado that guide for pike that I
know of have similar policies. In fact I would encourage you to spend some time
studying outfitters across Colorado and the lower 48 for that matter. I believe
you will be hard pressed to find very many outfitters that would have allowed
you to harvest such a fish.

I am sorry you feel the way you do about the meat, but I simply do not buy into
that reasoning. We released at least a dozen smaller pike that put together
would have easily matched or over came the meat that was on that fish and helped
the population far more than we could have by killing one big fish if that was
your reasoning. If money is the issue when booking a guide trip and putting food
on the table is at risk, I would also suggest that perhaps booking a guide trip
is ill advised. The amount of food you could provide for your family in the gas
money it took you to drive over and back alone would have easily lasted a month.
Further more the cost of the trip probably would double or even triple that.
Keep in mind how many pounds of fish you will provide for your family in the
future because of what you learned on my boat. In fact you were in your boat two
days later while I was fishing with your brother. You were fishing those spots I
showed you and following us around, a practice most guides get extremely upset
about.  I'm sorry, but the pounds of fish to offset the cost is simply not a
valid argument for killing that particular fish. What I find most interesting
about this comment is it was your cousin who paid me for the trip. I don't know
about your arrangements with him over the payment, but he was the one who handed
me the money. Further more, you cannot slap a guide in the face any harder than
for him or her to work their tail off to get you a trophy like that and then not
tip him or her. I also think it warrants pointing out that had I ended our trip
at the determined 6 hours this fish would have never even been caught.

Finally, on the note about the master angler program. It has been without a
doubt a hugely successful program in promoting fishing across the state
especially with youth fisherman/women and I give the DOW props for implementing
it. But the simple fact that you cannot receive a patch for your fish does not
diminish the accomplishment of catching such a wonderful fish. It is truly a
personal accomplishment. I honestly believe the only reason you are so upset
about not receiving your patch is because it somehow makes it less of a bragging
opportunity. I cannot think of a single person that would rather see a master
angler patch than a picture and/or a replica of your fish. The only reason for
the patch is pride and as a minister you know better than most the dangers of
being prideful.

The other part of your email that I find more degrading than anything to do with
the fish is for you to make an assumption about and take a shot at my faith. You
have not a clue about my personal life or my convictions. In fact for a minister
to make those assumptions is probably the scariest thing I can think of. I would
imagine that being in the ministry for *******, you would see more people making false
assumptions about ones faith than perhaps any other ministry field.

I want to reiterate and stress that I truly enjoyed the day with your family
which is why your email was such a shock. I feel very strongly that I taught you
and armed with tools to have repeated success in your fishing journey. I would
strongly encourage you to consider your strategy before the next time  you land
a trophy fish. It feels as though trophy fish get harder and harder to find
every year and if we don't help protect some of them, I'm afraid there will be
generations down the line that never get an opportunity at such a catch. It
truly is shame that there has become such a culture of killing these rare fish
and northern pike have probably taken the brunt end of it, especially at Taylor.
If you or your family ever have the desire to return and fish with me, I welcome
the opportunity, but my catch and release policy will still be in place. In fact
starting next summer we are making it even more restrictive. If that is going to
be an issue, perhaps you should find someone else to guide you.

I wish you all the best in your future fishing adventures and especially so in
your ministry.

Ryan Johnson
Owner / Guide
Weekend Warrior Outdoors
Gunnison, Colorado

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Frustrating is like when you are waiting for Netflix to load!!

Sometimes our kids have the most unhindered, real life view of the world. A couple of years ago when my now almost kindergarten age son was asked what Frustrating is, he responded by saying "Frustrating is like when you're waiting for Netflix to load." This has since become a standard in our family. On a long day at work or when a project just isn't going quite right, well tell each other, I'm just waiting for Netflix to Load today!

I'm not trying to knock Netflix, they've come to the rescue many a time in our house and quite honestly Hoyt's comments are a reflection of our mountain town slow internet service, not the service Netflix provides. It's the price we pay for living in the closest thing to heaven I've found. But this also reflects, to a point, the slow moving, sometimes to slow, nature of our town. We have amazing people that will give you the shirt off their back, (literally), low crime, (the most common crime is bike theft, most of which are usually found at a local bar the next day), and a surprisingly well educated core. But sometimes motivation seems to be at the bottom of the list.

With the 4th annual Chamber fishing tournament around the corner, it was concerning to hear there were only 9 teams entered. We'd been averaging close to 40 boats the first three years and I felt that we had attractive payouts. Typically close to a $1,000 for first and paying out 7 places or so. We almost always had enough door prizes for at least half the entrants and our regional Lund Dealer has done several promotions to give away bigger prizes as well. It has been a great tournament and at 40 some boats, probably one of the top 5 or 10 in the state for size of field.

But I can't say I'm surprised. As an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Community, perhaps the most frustrating part of working in that capacity, is all of the time and effort that goes into putting these events together with low participation and help. It almost falls back to the old adage in a church, 10% of the people do 90% of the work.

I think the hardest part for me is what people don't see. The bigger picture. Not only do these events typically help generate funds for local organizations such as the Chamber or local churches or non-profits, but it also brings people to town. It puts bodies in hotels, butt's in seats at restaurants, a run on early morning donuts at the gas stations and the latest lure at the sporting goods store, and on and on. Those not directly effected by an event, such as the fishing tournament, very often miss the bigger picture. Though your job may not directly have anything to do with fishing, the dollars generated by such an event pays taxes and wages. Those dollars are in turn used to fix roads, build infrastructure, are spent on other services and goods that will most definitely, at some point, directly benefit everyone who lives here.

I'm not much of a mountain biker, I don't really spend much time bird watching, and I can most definitely say I have no desire to enter a long distance foot or ski race. But I will encourage everyone I know who does enjoy those things to enter and support them. And I will continue to work behind the scenes even on events I don't necessarily enjoy myself, because the bigger picture shows it's good for all of us, not just a small niche. The work that very often goes into the events mean countless unpaid hours on the part of a few. Very rarely are they recognized or thanked and often people act as though they would have been just fine without the event. But if we start losing an event here and one there, pretty soon small pieces start to make a big piece.

Think about the advertising of a large corporation. When I worked for Budwieser right out of College it was almost a war like mentality when it came to getting spots to hang propaganda. Quite frankly one poster by it self probably never accounted for a single sale. But if you take that attitude into work, then pretty soon another poster is gone, then another, then another. If this happens in multiple places at once, pretty soon the larger brand starts to get hurt. Not because one piece of the pie has gone missing but because slowly over time small piece after small piece has devoured a huge chunk of it.

So, we canceled the tourney and a small piece slipped away this year. It's like waiting for Netflix to Load all over again. Almost 4 years of hard work seems to be all for not. But then it again, it's part of the bigger picture. So, we'll tread on. Perhaps the hardest part to stomach is knowing it's much easier to lose a piece than build one back up. I haven't decided if we'll give the tourney another go next year or not, but I can guarantee if I don't pursue it, I'll be working on something else, because its for the greater good of our entire little heaven on earth, not just my little niche of buddies.

Tight lines and shoot straight!

Ryan Johnson
Weekend Warrior Outdoors

Monday, May 5, 2014

Don't forget about the Salmon!!

With ice out a recent memory, it seems as though the lake is full of boats parading on the lake trout grounds like the Time Bandit or Cornelia Marie on the crab grounds. Rightfully so, because it is the time of year that the big fellows come out to play. But while boats are parading up and down hoping for that one magical fish, we're off in the distance filling up coolers and rippin lips!

That's right, the kokanee have come out to play. I very often spend the last hour or two of a slow day laker fishing chasing salmon. It gives a little satisfaction to see some tight lines and what many people don't realize is that some of the best kokanee action Blue Mesa will see all year is right now! We routinely get doubles and triples this time of year, the other day we even had the magically quad!

I love this time of year because it offers plenty for my customers to see and do. We can go try for a big laker first thing, maybe pop a pig, then go grab some table fair of delicious kokanee, and finish the day off casting for brownies on the rocky shorelines. Don't get me wrong, I love to laker fish, probably more than any other fish, but this time of year is amazing for all varities of fish. If you haven't ever experienced fishing Blue Mesa in May, maybe now is the time to give her a try!!

Tight Lines and Shoot Straight!
Ryan Johnson

Monday, April 14, 2014

CPR ............ for fish

If you have spent much time on the internet as of late and you're a fishin nut like myself, I'm sure you've seen the rather new acronym, CPR; Catch - Photo-Release.

 I don't consider my self a "purist" when it comes to catch and release and I condone those who crash the internet with hateful spite when someone takes home a trophy fish. I try to keep in perspective that fishing is just that, fishing. In the scheme of life, fishing should come well below God, Family and things to get really worked up about. But I also feel it should fall somewhere in-line with education and being a good steward of our resources because trophy fish are a resource that if not taken care off, can be depleted.

I think the most important part of CPR happens before you ever catch the fish. It starts with having a plan. You have to decide in your mind (and probably your spouses) what constitutes a trophy and what you would consider spending $$$$$$ on to put on your wall. It's important to have a clear cut limit so you don't spend time waffling with a trophy fishing gulping for air on the deck of your boat. Spend time investigating local taxidermists and their reputation before their price. Also look at skin mounts vs replica's. Replica's typically cost more but last significantly longer. My experience as of late would also suggest that if you get the right taxidermist, replicas look much more realistic as well.

With all of this already decided, when the moment of truth comes you can be ready. Keep the fish in the water while you get ready, either in the net or in a live well. Then quickly pop him out, snap,snap, snap (make sure your buddies know to take non stop pictures, they're digital and you can delete them!), grab a quick length and girth and then back in the water. Try to weigh the fish with either a cradle or by using the net. Then spend the time to make sure she's strong before you let her swim off. Then high five and hoop and yell, after all you just accomplished something awesome!

For me and my customers, its an easy decision. Any trout over 24" goes back and any laker over 28" does too. This makes it easier when we catch a trophy because there's no decision to be made. I impose this limits on myself as well. This past weekend, my boys and I where graced with a gorgeous brown, probably my biggest ever. The decision was easy because I knew before she even boarded the boat what my courses of action was. Because of this, when we released her, she was very strong and healthy and I have no doubt she made a full recovery. After all,
nothing is worse than releasing a fish that dies, everyone loses when that happens.

As we get ready for spring fishing and the magical time of year when the big fellas come out to play, I encourage you to think about what you will do if and when you tie into a personal best. If you decide to keep it, know that you will not see any trash talk from me or my team. Instead you're going to get a congratulations on a beautiful fish. At that point your decision has been made and it makes no sense to bash anyone about legally harvesting a fish. If anything, it motivates me more to help educate people about the benefits of CPR and what it might mean for our kids in the future of fishing our local rivers and reservoirs.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Guides Don't Use The G Word

Yes fish is a four letter word. So is work, wife, and boat! But it's not these or other four letter words that most fishing guides are scared of. In fact its a whopping 9 letter'er that we all shy away from, GUARANTEE. Why don't guides guarantee fish? It's a question even I've asked myself over the years. It's no secret that there are several guides on Blue Mesa Reservoir which makes competition a little fierce at times. Luckily, it's a very unique situations where we, for the most part, all get along. We frequently text back and forth, helping each other where we can, tossing each other trips when we can't accommodate them and so on. But the thought has crossed my mind that if I offered a GUARANTEE perhaps it would give me a competitive edge.

Up until the end of last season, I had only caught the five letter word (skunk) three times in my guide career and two of them where with the same client, back to back years! But still, over a hundred trips a year for almost 5 years, only three skunks. Then the end of last summer happened. It didn't just happen to me, it happened to the whole lake. Water levels remained low, oxygen content tanked, and fish got the lock jaw. All of us guides cancelled trips, moved trips to other lakes and grinded out miserable days fishing followed by a great one, then a terrible one with no rhyme or reason to it at all. It made me think harder about the G word thing.

Here's my conclusion, I know that day in and day out there are only a handful of guys on each body of water that can consistently produce fish even when they don't want to bite. These doesn't mean that the same group of fisherman could go to an body of water in the country and produce fish, but the waters they fish for a living I honestly feel they provide anyone the absolute best opportunity to catch fish. I can honestly say I put myself in that group on the reservoirs I guide. But all of us have our days. It's always interesting to come to the cleaning station and see who has done what. Some days I win, some days I don't. But the truth is, if all of us (guides that is) come to the cleaning station with a decent bag of fish and happy customers then we all win. But we have all had the day when we show up with far less than someone else. It has happened and will happen again to all of us. We can fish the exact same lure, in the exact same spot, and someone will catch more. It's just the way it is, it's fishing!

I can remember a bass competition I was watching a few years ago. It was  pro event and featured the absolute very best fisherman in the country. These guys catch 5 lb smallies out of mud puddles in my front yard. I remember very clearly in this competition two of the competitors had found a hydrilla pad.  I also remember one of the contestants was Gary Yamamoto. Yamamoto and the the other guy we're the only two fishing this pad and they where using the exact same skirted jig. To the color even. Yamamoto was killing them and built a huge lead on the field while the guy next door struggled to catch a limit of keepers. Yamamoto was culling several fish an hour and his competitor barely got enough bites to weigh. The very next day, the exact same guys on the exact same pad and the roles reversed. Yamamaoto struggled and the neighbor set the world on fire. It happens to the very best in the world too.
And so it is with guiding. If you've done your homework and you know you're with a good guide, put your faith in him or her and give them some credit. We all have our days. I would love for it to be my day with everyone of my clients, but the chips just don't fall that way. We have spent hundreds of days on the water just tinkering and though we all have a few little secrets or quirks of our own, when it comes time for you to jump in the boat with us, rest easy that we have put a ton of work into your trip. Enjoy the view, pick our brains a little, and more than likely we'll catch fish.But please don't mentino the G word, because if feels like that's the kiss of death for some trips!

Tight lines and shoot straight!
Ryan Johnson

Monday, March 24, 2014

Archery Season is Only 5 Months Away

Even though there is still snow on the ground, I find myself dreaming of bugling bulls and timberline muley's. As I get older, it seems more and more often I find myself on the eve or archery season wishing I had devoted more time to shooting my bow. Summers just aren't as long as they used to be! One of the biggest problems I face as it gets close to hunting season is when I take off my field tips and screw on some blades. It's always frustrating to spend the entire summer dialing your bow only to have to redo it all over again. After wrestling with this for several seasons, using different broad heads, different arrows, etc. it was a very simple trick a fellow archer told me that made all the difference.

Paper tune your bow with a bare shaft. It's really that easy. I've always paper tuned my bows but doing it with a an arrow without fletchings made a huge improvement in the flight of my arrows when it came time to put on blades. So here's a quick guide to tuning your bow now so you don't have the stress on the eve of hunting season:

1) make sure your bow is as close to set up as you can before you start paper tuning. Make sure your knocking point is square to your rest, make sure your sight is level and square to your riser, make sure your limbs are tightened evenly, you want your arrow to lie in the upper half of the rest mounting hole in your riser when you view it from the side. If you don't have a center shot, put an allen wrench in each limb bolt and run a string around them making a complete circle and then make sure your arrow is as close center as you can make it. If you're shooting a new bow or a new string, shoot it a few hundred times and the repeat all of these steps because your string will stretch! Then shoot a few arrows until you're sure you can hit a target at 10 yards.

2) To set up a paper tuning station of sorts, just take a big piece of paper (newspaper works great), stretch it tight and place it approximately 5 yards from the target. I have a small table that I screw two 2x4's into and then staple the paper between them. If you have access to do this indoors it will help, but if you must do it outside, it has to be DEAD CALM!

3) Stand 5 yards behind the paper (10 yards from the target), and start shooting. I try very hard to use the absolutely best posture and mechanics I can. We don't care where the arrow hits as long as its in a safe direction. If you flinch or twitch or just didn't like it, ignore that hole and shoot again. When you get a shot you like study the hole. Tears side ways means your rest needs to move left or right, tears up and down means it needs to move up or down and tears at an angle mean its a combination of the two. Repeat this step over and over again until the arrow tears an absolutely perfect circle. Be very critical, remember, time spent now will save you time later. Make sure your arrow is clearing the rest and riser cleanly because this can mess with your mind!!

4) Practice, Practice, Practice and more Practice.

It might be simple but some time spent now on your bow will save you huge headaches in 4 1/2 months and ultimately help insure that one opportunity you get next fall counts. Archery has become incredibly more popular over the last decade or so, but the fact it takes a skill set to consistently and ethically harvest animals has not
. You owe it yourself and the animal to spend the required time now!

Good Luck This Fall!
Tight Lines and Shoot Straight
Ryan Johnson

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The pre-ice-out, I can't sit still, spring fever, to do list!

This time of year has always had a sort of love - hate relationship for me! There's still fishable ice 15 minutes down the road, the lund is still tucked into her shrink wrap bed, and I'm officially on day 3 of shorts season. The weather outside is beautiful, the sun is shinning, it feels like spring, but open water is still a couple hour drive away from our high mountain abode.

This year holds a heightened sense of spring fever for me mostly because my range of motion has been limited due to the expected arrival of my first girl any day now!! Don't get me wrong, I'm am almost too excited about my first girl, but it's hard to sit here at the computer when my friends keep posting pictures of giant walleye's, smooth water, and brand clean boats! Sure there's ice just down the road that has good cell coverage and is in acceptable hospital drive time, plus, I know the laker's are biting.  But come on, I'm in shorts already!!

Each spring seems to bring this feeling of uneasyness in anticipation of monster fish making an apperacne just after the ice gives way. I think the Mr. Andy Williams missed the mark when he sang "It's the most wonderfull time of the year." Obviously he's never experienced ice out fishing.

So in leu of time on the water, I'm spending much needed time getting ready for what is promising to be my best year yet as a guide. Here's what's on my to do list and items you  might think about as well to help take the edge off your spring fever:

1) Order Some Gear: Ice out seems to happen over night and the worst thing that can happen is getting on the water and running out of jig heads, or losing the only lure that seems to be the secret that day. Remember that rod that you stepped on at the end of last year but limped through the last couple of trips with? Don't remeber it when there's a 40lb'r on the the other end!

2) Research: I cannot overstate the importance of studying new techniques, ideas, and even the old standards. Learn a new knot, study trolling speeds as they relate to water temp, fish habits, when and where do they spawn, what temperature do they like, the list goes on and on. Knowledge is power when it comes to fishing or anything else for that matter.

3) New Line Time: Anyone that has fished with me for more than 2 minutes knows that I firmly believe half the battle in fishing is in the string between you and them. Ice out often brings super clear water and shallow water which means your line has to be in tip top shape. Plus all those cold nights in your garage can make line brittle. Nothing sucks more then realizing after four break offs and lost lures that your line is bad.

4) Office Work: This applies to you too!! Fishing license's here in Colorado expire at the end of the month. Boat registrations have to be renewed before you get on the water. For Guides, license's have to be renewed, permits have to be applied for, and time spent marketing better happen now because I sure won't be messing with it in July!

5) Plan Some Trips Now: Summers always comes and goes way to fast! I know if I don't put a couple of tourney's and trips with the family on the calender, they won't happen. Pretty soon work loads up, seems like each summer is good for a wedding or two, friends have baby's, grandparents have important anniversary, graduation's, fireworks and rodeo's all chip away at summer and pretty soon it's October. Plan a weekend or two or three right now!

I know spring fever is running a muck, but a little planning right now can make this fishing season the best of your life!!

Tight Lines and Shoot Straight
Ryan Johnson