Antero Reservoir to be drained, dam rebuilt, this summer

When the conditions are right, anglers often catch rod-bending trout at Antero Reservoir in South Park. The reservoir is being drained to allow work on the dam and currently is under emergency fish-salvage regulations.

The legacy of ups and downs at Antero Reservoir’s popular fishery in wind-swept South Park is on the down. Way down.

Western Slope anglers making the southern-route trek to Denver for the January sportsmen’s shows drive right past Antero Reservoir, and those who stop to cast a line or two often are surprised by the results.

The 2,500-acre reservoir can grow large trout and grow them quickly, and if you catch the reservoir when the fates smile, you may leave with plenty of stories to tell.

But the fates aren’t smiling.

Denver Water, which owns the liquid resource vital to the reservoir’s trout fishery, has announced plans to drain the reservoir this summer to afford a much-needed reconstruction of the impoundment’s dam.

Although that bodes well for the future of the fishery, the present situation isn’t as promising.

No water means no fish, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has responded by opening the reservoir immediately for emergency fish-salvage regulations to take advantage of the imperiled fishery.

Anglers are allowed to take up to eight trout with no size restrictions for as long as Denver Water keeps the reservoir open to the public.

Normal regulations for Antero limit anglers to two trout.

As the reservoir levels recede, Parks and Wildlife staff will salvage fish as they move out of the reservoir. These fish will be moved to other Park County waters.

Antero has a checkered history as a fishery. The shallow reservoir (maximum depth is about 20 feet) is extremely productive and can grow large trout quickly, but it has long had problems with a heavy sucker population, which also grows rapidly in the fertile waters.

It’s a boom-and-bust fishery. As Antero ages and the sucker population takes off, trout survival and growth rates decline, which leads to fewer anglers visiting the reservoir.

Plus, being a domestic water source for Denver, its water is destined for uses other than raising trout.

The last time the plug was pulled was in 2002, when the Hayman fire caused the reservoir to be drained. It took five years for the reservoir to refill.

But it certainly was worth the wait.

The July 2007 reopening provided eager anglers with the chance to catch their limit of football-shaped trout bumping against the 20-inch mark.

According to the Parks and Wildlife biologist then monitoring the fishery, the trout were growing at 1½ inches a month, a considerable rate anywhere.

Don’t get your hopes up for a repeat performance, said current biologists, who warned the reopening of Antero “may not meet expectation” from the boom time of 2007.

“Managing Antero’s exceptional fishery is a fine balance between nutrients, water levels and competition with suckers,” said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We proved during the last drain-and-fill cycle that we have a blueprint to make Antero great.

“Over the next year CPW staff will hopefully be working with Denver Water to see if we can make that happen again.”

Of such things an angler’s dreams are made.


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