Voluntary fishing closure begins on Colorado River from Kremmling to Rifle | SkyHiNews.com

Voluntary fishing closure begins on Colorado River from Kremmling to Rifle

Sky-Hi News staff report

Due to extremely low flows and warm water temperatures, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking anglers to voluntarily avoid fishing on the Colorado River between Kremmling and Rifle.

Effective Wednesday, CPW said it is placing a full-day voluntary fishing closure on the Colorado River beginning at the Highway 9 bridge in Kremmling downstream to the Highway 13 bridge in Rifle. The voluntary closure will remain in effect until further notice with a possibility of a mandatory emergency closure to all fishing if conditions worsen.

CPW officials explained that because of the ongoing drought, flows are down in the river.

The USGS gauge on the Colorado River at Catamount Bridge typically measures between 1,500 and 2,000 cubic feet per second. The gauge has been measuring 600-700 cfs, about half what is historically expected there. The USGS gauge on the Colorado River near Dotsero is running at 1,250 cfs, down from an expected 3,000-4,000 cfs.

CPW’s aquatic biologists on the West Slope are concerned about critically high water temperatures and possible low dissolved oxygen with some fish mortality having already been observed this summer. Unique to this year, multiple mudslides and flash flood events resulting from last year’s fires have increased the sediment load in some river sections.

“With the high sediment load, the fish can’t find clear water,” CPW Aquatic Biologist Kendall Bakich said in a statement. “They’ve got to sit through those conditions. And at nighttime, the temp isn’t coming down enough, so there’s no recovery for those fish right now. They’ve just got to hang on.”

These conditions aren’t just limited to the Colorado River. A voluntary fishing closure is likely on the Yampa River from the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area to the west city limits of Steamboat Springs, officials added, where temperatures surpassed 75 degrees on Tuesday. If the Yampa River hits 75 Wednesday, the closure will be implemented.

Biologists are also closely monitoring the Fraser and upper Colorado Rivers in Grand County, where temperatures are edging toward dangerous levels for trout.

Anglers should be aware that most of the major rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope are experiencing adverse conditions heading into the hottest days of summer.

CPW is encouraging trout anglers to consider fishing early in the day and in higher altitude lakes and streams as hot, dry conditions and reduced water levels increase stress to trout populations.

Heat, drought, and low water levels are contributing to elevated water temperatures in much of Colorado, depleting oxygen levels and leaving trout vulnerable.

Trout are cold-water fish that function best in 50-60 degree waters, officials explained. When temperatures exceed 70 degrees, they often stop feeding and become more susceptible to disease.

Warm temperatures and low water levels can also lead to algae blooms in rivers and reservoirs, which cause oxygen levels to drop when algae die and decompose.

Anglers are asked to carefully consider the water and weather conditions when they go fishing for trout. If water seems too warm or fish appear lethargic, it would be best to leave the fish undisturbed.

During mid-summer, try to fish early in the morning when the water is coolest.

Other suggestions include using heavier tippet and line to quickly reel in and release the fish, always wetting your hands before handling a fish, and to keep the fish submerged while unhooking and releasing it. Avoid taking the fish out of the water even for a quick photo in these conditions.

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