Live bait-fish not allowed west of Divide

Whether it’s a sunfish or a trout, an angler never is too young to be fascinated by the mysteries and allure of a wild fish. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will offer two Free Fishing Days on June 1-2.

The long weekend finally is here, the mid-elevation lakes and reservoirs are ready for boating, and there’s no reason not to spend a day or more at your favorite fishing hole.

Anglers new to Colorado — and those who might have forgotten — may find useful a refresher in what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to using live bait.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently sent out a newsletter outlining the state’s bait-fishing policies, and among the points is it is illegal to use live bait west of the Continental Divide.

For most anglers, aware of the problems with invasive species, endangered fish species and the dilution of native fish with (mostly) unintended intruders, not using live bait is a no-brainer.

But live bait (that’s minnows) is legal east of the Continental Divide and below 7,000 feet elevation (Navajo Reservoir southeast of Durango is the only Western Slope exception).

Also, regulations say all aquatic bait must come from an authorized dealer and be inspected for aquatic nuisance species.

Because of the concern about the spread of invasive species, including Rusty crayfish, it’s illegal to move crayfish between waters on the Western Slope.

In case you’re wondering, a recent angler survey from Parks and Wildlife says 33 percent of residents and 48 percent of nonresidents said they were “very satisfied” with their fishing experience.

Another 33 percent of resident anglers said they were “somewhat” satisfied, and 32 percent of nonresidents said the same.

Most of the survey respondents said they preferred fishing for trout, and 46 percent of resident anglers wanted additional fishing opportunities for rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.

Sixty-four percent of nonresidents wanted additional opportunities to fish for brown, cutthroat and lake trout.

The majority of fish caught in Colorado are stocked by the agency.

The survey also revealed the aging trend of today’s anglers could mean a funding shortfall in future years.

Colorado anglers 64 and older pay only $1 per year for a fishing license, and as more anglers reach that age, with more time to fish, the agency could see a shortage of funds.

Colorado will have two Free Fishing Days June 1-2 (Utah’s Free Fishing Day is June 8).

Licenses to fish are not required on free fishing days, but all of the other rules in the state’s fishing guidebook will be in effect.


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