Rebirth of Arkansas River yields Gold Medal results

It took 20 years of cooperation and work – from private, state and federal organizations – but last week this stretch of the Arkansas River officially was recognized as the latest addition to the state’s list of Gold Medal Waters.

Colorado’s Gold Medal Trout Waters, considered among the best trout-producing waters in the state, grew by one-third last week with the addition of 102 miles on the Arkansas River.

The designation was approved by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission at its January meeting in Denver.

The reach of river now officially considered as Gold Medal is the longest such stretch in the state.

It weaves from the upper river’s confluence with the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River near Leadville downstream to Parkdale, where the U.S. Highway 50 bridge crosses above the Royal Gorge.

“The upper Arkansas River fishery is the best it has been in over a century, thanks to the efforts and hard work of many agencies and individuals that have recognized its great potential,” said Greg Policky, an aquatic biologist for Parks and Wildlife. “I am very pleased that this outstanding river has received the Gold Medal designation and is now ranked among the elite trout fisheries in Colorado.”

Policky said the river has met the Gold Medal designation since 1999 for both a minimum average of 12 quality trout — trout larger than 14 inches — per acre and the standing crop of 60 pounds of trout per acre.

This addition brings the total miles of Gold Medal Waters to 322.

The resurgence of the Arkansas River, benefitting from the efforts of various private, state and federal agencies, is no secret to many anglers, who in a 2012 survey voted the Arkansas River as their favorite fishing destination.

Improved water quality, the direct result of years of mining rehabilitation upstream near Leadville, and the recent introduction of stoneflies (Pteronarcys californica) by Parks and Wildlife, have attracted attention to this river.

According to Parks and Wildlife, the river between Leadville and Parkdale last year was fished by nearly 100,000 anglers.

They found plenty of places to fish because more than 65 percent of this stretch is open to public angling on federal and state-owned land and numerous state-controlled fishing leases and easements.

Where heavy-metal water pollution once limited trout to living no more than three years, trout now are thriving for a decade or more.


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