Proposed regulations would make part of Fraser River catch and release for rainbows |

Proposed regulations would make part of Fraser River catch and release for rainbows

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado

The Fraser River from its headwaters to the confluence of St. Louis Creek may have a new rainbow trout catch-and-release-only rule if proposed Colorado Division of Wildlife regulations are approved.

New fishing regulations are being considered across the state in a public process that takes place every five years.

During a DOW-hosted angler roundtable meeting in Granby in late April, no opposition was voiced to the idea of having the Fraser River down to St. Louis Creek become rainbow catch-and release-only with fishing limited to artificial flies and lures, according to Division of Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Jon Ewert.

The changes also propose a two-trout possession limit on any part of the Fraser River. At present, a two-trout limit exists on only part of the river.

The catch and release rule would only apply to rainbow trout in the area of river near the towns of Winter Park and Fraser because “we’re seeing less (rainbow) trout reproduction than we would like to see to maintain healthy populations,” Ewert said. “Rainbows get harvested out of proportion to their population. Catch and release would put them on a better competitive footing with brown trout in the Fraser.”

Rainbow trout, he said, are not as savvy and are easier to catch than brown trout.

Brown trout, according to Ewert, have been slowly and steadily increasing in population over the past few years. “There is no evidence that the brown trout population is suffering from harvest,” the biologist said.

Meanwhile, brook trout farther upstream are “plentiful,” “prolific at reproducing” and even “benefit from thinning,” – reasons brook trout also are not being considered for catch and release.

But rainbows “are far more vulnerable to fishing,” Ewert said. “They’re not holding on as well.” DOW biologists are not seeing as many small trout produced in that section of the river, he said.

Mitch Kirwan, fly-fishing guide and part owner of Mo Henry’s Trout Shop in Fraser, “wholeheartedly” supports the direction of the DOW.

“The ethic in flyfishing anymore is centered on catch and release,” said Kirwan, “because everyone values the resource. Catch and release is perpetuating the sport.”

The rule shouldn’t affect his guide business because “very few of our clients express any interest in keeping fish,” he said.

In fact, he would like to see the rule extended to the entire stretch of the Fraser River.

“I wouldn’t want to regulate what happens on private lands, but any of the public stretches I would love to see as catch and release,” he said, especially because of “illicit” catch-and-keep anglers known to poach the Fraser.

“We see a lot of fish leaving that water, and it can only sustain so many fish.”

But Ewert doesn’t feel the biology warrants a full fish-harvest ban on the Fraser.

“The data that I’ve got shows what the fish population is doing doesn’t support that,” he said.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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