Parts of the Colorado and Eagle Rivers are now closed to day fishing following 75-degree temperatures near Dotsero
The Colorado River reached 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit near Dotsero last week, more than 5 degrees above the temperature deemed safe for fishing.
When water temperatures rise above 70 degrees, fish often stop feeding and become more susceptible to disease, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife enacts voluntary fishing closures on waterways statewide.
When these fishing closures went into effect in Eagle County last week (on the Eagle River under the Eagle County Fairgrounds and the Colorado River under State Bridge), the closures began at noon because the water temperature was often below 70 degrees before midday.
When Colorado near Dotsero reached 75.2 degrees at its hottest on July 17, however, the corresponding low was only 68.7 the next morning. By 10:30 a.m. on July 18, the temperature had already risen to 70 degrees.
Closed all day
On July 20, local fishing closures changed to all-day closures, and on the Eagle River, these fishing closures now begin at Wolcott rather than the fairgrounds. The voluntary Colorado River closure still begins at State Bridge, but instead of ending at Glenwood Canyon, the closure now extends to Rifle.
The Colorado River District said it “will continue to do our part with voluntary discharges when water is available from our limited resources at Wolford Mountain Reservoir”, but also appealed to cities and water districts that divert water from the western slope to the Front Range, asking for more water to cope with the high temperatures that accompany the low flows.
“Our constituents are wondering why big Front Range providers aren’t reducing their cross-mountain diversions to join the River District by helping Colorado’s namesake river and the livelihoods it supports,” said Brendon Langenhuizen, Technical Advocacy Director. of the river district.
Denver Water Communications Manager Travis Thompson in a July 21 Denver Post YourHub storyacknowledged that people are wondering why the utility is unable to act now to provide more water.
“One of the challenges is around water rights and respecting cross-cutting agreements that have been made with multiple parties over the years,” Thompson said.
Denver Water has approximately 20,000 acre-feet of water that it is forced to release from Wolford and Williams Fork Reservoirs over the next few months, and early water release is not possible due to agreements that dictate how and when the water is released, Thompson said. .
“After a lackluster snow season coupled with reservoir storage restrictions at Gross Dam due to construction, Denver Water planners simply don’t have enough water in storage to bypass the extra water to the river right now,” Thompson said.
Upstream fishing is still OK
While Wolcott’s full-day closure at Rifle is certainly restrictive for local guiding businesses, it’s not the largest voluntary fishing closure Eagle County has ever seen.
In 2002, a voluntary fishing closure on the Eagle River was issued for all areas downstream of Avon. Upvalley, flows at Vail reportedly dipped below 10 cubic feet per second that year, and Gore Creek fishing guides said they received notes on their vehicles threatening “damage to personal property if guides were caught fishing in Gore Creek after noon,” the Vail Trail reported.
On Gore Creek and the Upper Eagle River this year, the water remains cold enough to fish this season. Higher elevation locations are also an option for those who don’t need massive amounts of whitewater for recreation. Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages anglers to seek out high-altitude lakes and streams, some of which might even be filled with trout.
On July 21, the two black lakes off Interstate 70 near the Vail Pass exit were filled with more than 2,000 9- to 14-inch-long rainbow trout.
The trout were bred by a Boulder-based fishery that is licensed and inspected by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which tests trout from the fishery annually to ensure that each lot is healthy and disease free, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District reported.
The district stores the lakes annually under a 1986 agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
The July 21 storage was the second storage of 2022, the district reported.
“2,500 pounds of fish entered the lakes on June 14 and another 2,500 pounds on July 21,” the district reported. “The two cold water reservoirs are operated as part of the district-developed water supply system, which is responsible for the public water system serving the city of Vail and, by contract, the communities of EagleVail in Cordillera.”