Footballs are Back!
Nevada Freshwater Fishing
While unassuming to some, those who have fished Comins Lake in the past know that it is home to some of the largest, fastest-growing trophy trout in the state. “The footballs” refers to the most common description for the fish that roam the waters of the reservoir.
Seeming to appear as an oasis out of a sea of sagebrush just seven miles south of Ely, Comins Lake has had an illustrious past. The reservoir was first stocked with the highly predatory northern pike in 1970 in an effort to control a nuisance population of non-game fish. By the mid 1980’s, the pike had decimated all fish in the reservoir and the pike population crashed. The pike were chemically eradicated using rotenone in 1989 and Comins Lake enjoyed itself as a trophy trout destination throughout the 1990’s until they were again discovered in the reservoir in 1999, this time a result of an illegal introduction. In less than a decade, the pike had again devastated the trout and bass populations in Comins Lake that many an angler had grown to love.
During the summer of 2015, an army of NDOW personnel descended upon both Comins Lake and Bassett Lake to again eradicate the toothy predator. Bassett Lake, located 20 miles north of Ely was also home to northern pike and likely represented the origin of the most recent illegal introduction. The spring of 2016 saw trout and bass stocked into both waters for the first time in nearly a decade. In seemingly no time, the reputation of the fish Comins Lake produces has quickly been restored. Trout in the 18-20 inch and 3-pound size class were common throughout the 2018 season. In 2019, anglers can expect to see more quality and preferred size trout are being caught with some trout measuring over 25 inches and tipping the scales at 5 pounds. The largemouth bass population will see a large portion of their population move into the 10-inch range in 2019 meaning more spawning age bass.
The key to the Comins Lake footballs is the productivity of the high desert gem. From zooplankton to whole array of aquatic insects such as midges, damselflies, and dragonflies, anything that a trout likes to eat is present in the waters of Comins Lake in obscene amounts. A growth study in the mid-1990’s showed that hatchery trout stocked at eight inches and 1/3 pound each would more than double their length and showed an eight-fold increase in weight in just a year. In the absence of pike, Comins Lake has proven itself of trophy capabilities. In 2004, it was the fourth most popular fishing destination in the entire state, only to be bested by Lakes Mead and Mohave and the Truckee River. As a two-tiered fishery (trout and bass), quality fishing can be pursued year-round by anglers of all ages and experience. Springtime and fall water temperatures make for fantastic trout fishing while bass fishing can be enjoyed in the hotter summer months. An often-overlooked opportunity is catching giant trout through the ice in the winter months.
Comins Lake is an integral component of NDOW’s Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area just 7 miles south of Ely, a full-service community. The lake is fed by both Steptoe and Cave Creeks from the east and Willow Creek from the south. At capacity, the lake covers 410 surface acres with a maximum depth of 15 feet. Average depth is 6 to 8 feet.
Bait fishermen should fish off the bottom with PowerBait, salmon eggs, or night crawlers with a minimal amount of weight. Spinners and spoons are popular with the casters, but a fly and a bubble produces excellent results as well. Fly fishermen should use nymph and damsel patterns in the spring and dark wooly buggers, midges, and leeches the rest of the year. For those willing to brave the elements, weighted jigs (green or yellow) seem to work best for ice fishing.
A primitive boat launch is available. However, plans are in the works for a modernized boat ramp and dock. There are restrooms on-site. Although, overnight camping and fires are not allowed, there are a multitude of camping and lodging choices nearby. NDOW is currently working to obtain a grant that would fund a new, modern ADA compliant boat launch facility for Comins Lake.
Health Advisory – Comins Lake: Due to elevated methylmercury levels, The Nevada State Health Division is recommending zero consumption of largemouth bass from Comins Lake. For more information visit ndow.org.