Grand County boasts sections of certified Gold Medal waters
From the depths of Grand Lake to the Fraser Canyon to the reservoirs of western Middle Park, Grand County abounds with prime fishing territory, but it is two long stretches of the Colorado River, between Granby and State Bridge, that hold the unique distinction of being called Gold Medal Waters.
Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife agency oversees the state’s Gold Medal Waters fishery program by establishing the unique criteria used to determine a gold medal fishery as well as being the entity that officially designates waters as gold medal quality.
Parks and Wildlife defines gold medal waters as any river or lake which is producing a standing stock of at least 60 pounds per acre, and at least 12 trout that are 14 inches or longer per acre on a sustained basis according to the state’s 2018 fishing regulation booklet. Additionally any river segment designated as gold medal quality must be a minimum of two miles in length, and lakes must be a minimum of 50 acres.
There are two stretches of the Colorado River in Grand County designated as Gold Medal Waters by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The upper segment extends from the confluence of the Fraser River and the Colorado River down to where Troublesome Creek dumps into the Colorado, a little over four-and-a-half miles east of Kremmling.
The second begins at Canyon Creek, which pours into the Colorado a short distance northeast of Pumphouse Recreation Area, all the way west past the Grand County line to Rock Creek, just south of McCoy in Eagle County.
Taken together, the two stretches of Gold Medal fisheries include roughly 30 miles of the Colorado River in Grand County alone. The upper section of the Colorado was designated a Gold Medal Water back in the 1980s when the state kicked off the program. The lower section below Gore Canyon was designated just two years ago in 2016.
According to Jon Ewert, aquatic biologist with Parks and Wildlife, it is the “excellent aquatic insect population” that makes Grand County’s Gold Medal waters outstanding fisheries. Ewert noted the sections of the Colorado below Gore Canyon also contain smaller fish populations that provide a vertebrate prey base for fish in that area.
The upper section between Granby and Kremmling is slower moving and shallower than the lower segment, which is defined by deep, fast moving waters and a wide stretch between the two riverbanks.
“The upper stretch is a high mountain river type fishery. It is more of a wading fishery and is not flotable,” Ewert said. “The most common size (of fish) is usually about eight to 10 inches.”
Ewert added that the upper section of the river usually requires a more careful and delicate presentation of flies when fishing.
“Downstream the river is much bigger and people love to float fish it,” Ewert said. “It is one of the largest trout rivers in the state. The most common size of fish down there is usually about 15 inches, which is remarkable for a trout fishery.”
Ewert said brown trout, which naturally reproduce and are not stocked, make up over 90 percent of both fisheries. Rainbow trout, stocked at a very early age, make up most of the remainder of the sport fish that can be found in either stretch. Mountain white fish, some as large as 21 inches or larger, can be found in the lower section of the Colorado as well.
There are public access points for fishing either Gold Medal stretch of the Colorado, requiring different fishing strategies. The upper section is a hodgepodge of public access points and private land and visiting anglers will want to restrict their fishing to public access points such as Byers Canyon, Hot Sulphur State Wildlife Area, and marked public access points west of Windy Gap Reservoir and the town of Parshall.
The lower Gold Medal section of the Colorado River is contained mostly within public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management or near portions of Radium State Wildlife Area. Much of the lower Gold Medal section is difficult to access though without the aid of a river raft or some other type of boat. e
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