Spring on Gunnison: Trout spawning, sediment flowing

This gauge sits in the Gunnison River just downstream of the East Portal diversion dam and offers anglers an idea of water flows. Flows in the Gunnison are expected to more than double by this weekend compared to the first of May.



EAST PORTAL — Birds do it, bees do it, even fishies in the stream do it.

It’s spring and rainbow trout are spawning.

There are several sections of the Gunnison River at the East Portal where it’s easy to see spawning trout, and most anglers give these embattled fish a wide berth during their annual rites.

Sunday, however, a quartet of spin fishermen was working the shallows, trying for the large trout seen hovering over the spawning beds.

From the fishermen’s language, it was apparent the fish weren’t interested in biting a piece of metal but the spin guys kept at it.

It’s not illegal to fish over spawning trout, and you can make your own decision about what’s ethical.

Ted Elsted, who probably is more comfortable fishing a bamboo rod than the high-tech graphite/carbon fiber rod he was carrying, warily eyed the heavy-metal anglers and shook his head.

“I don’t know, these trout have been very well- educated,” said Elsted, from Montrose. “They’ve seen just about everything you can throw at them, so I don’t think they’re in much trouble. But still, maybe someone ought to tell those guys to leave those fish alone.”

The clarity of the Gunnison below Crystal Dam depends not only on the rapidity of the runoff, but also on what happens to the Cimarron River, a wild card in the Gunnison flows.

Once Silver Jack Reservoir fills and spills and the Cimarron starts to rise, that river carries a huge load of sediment into the Gunnison, which it meets just above Crystal Reservoir.

Those cold, mud-laden flows sink to the bottom, flow snakelike through the reservoir and emerge nearly intact to discolor the Gunnison.

This not only makes fishing difficult, but may add considerably to the flows until the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cuts back releases to compensate for Crystal additions.

The bureau is expecting a spring peak of around 6,800 cubic feet per second to meet the adjudicated water right for the Black Canyon.

Flows are expected to reach 3,150 cfs by Saturday.


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