Colorado Parks and Wildlife has placed a full-day voluntary fishing closure on the Colorado River between Kremmling and Rifle because of extremely low river flows and warm water.
The closure, which was put in place Wednesday and will remain in place indefinitely, begins at the Colorado Highway 9 bridge in Kremmling and ends at the Colorado Highway 13 bridge in Rifle, according to a CPW press release.
“We know that anglers care deeply about this fishery,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin in the release. “We need their help to conserve this resource.”
Travis Duncan, CPW public information officer, said the closure is likely to last throughout the summer.
Forecasts indicate conditions on the Colorado are going to get worse before they get better, Duncan said.
Under a voluntary closure, CPW is just asking anglers not to fish that section of the river, Duncan said. There are no citations or anything involved with a voluntary closure.
“We’re just letting people know this isn’t a good time to fish, the fish are really stressed out,” Duncan said.
When river temperatures get over 70 degrees, trout often stop feeding and are more vulnerable to disease, according to the release.
A voluntary closure could lead to a mandatory closure if river conditions worsen over the next few weeks and/or the river continues to see fishing impacts, Duncan said.
Although fishing closures on this section of the Colorado aren’t unheard of, the extreme drought in western Colorado has brought river temperatures higher than usual, Duncan said, and even when the area does receive rain, debris from the burn scars from last year’s wildfires gets in the river, which increases the sediment load, which isn’t good for the fish.
“With the high sediment load, the fish can’t find clear water,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist Kendall Bakich in the release. “They’ve got to sit through those conditions. And at nighttime, the temp isn’t coming down enough, so there’s no recovery for those fish right now. They’ve just got to hang on.”
Duncan cautioned anglers to be aware of closures and conditions before fishing on the Western Slope.
According to the release, the Colorado River near Dotsero is running at about 1,250 cubic feet per second at a time when it should be running at about 3,000-4,000 cfs.
In addition to the low flows, according to the release, CPW is worried about high water temperatures and possible low dissolved oxygen in the river, and has already observed some fish mortality this summer.
The Colorado isn’t the only river CPW is worried about. “Anglers should be aware that most of the major rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope are experiencing adverse conditions heading into the hottest days of summer,” the release said.
A mandatory closure is in effect on the Yampa River near Stagecoach Reservoir, and a voluntary closure after noon is in place on the Dolores River from McPhee Reservior dam to Bradfield bridge, according to CPW’s fishing closures tracker.
CPW is also exploring the idea of a voluntary closure on the Yampa from Chuck Lewis state Wildlife Area to Steamboat Springs, and biologists are monitoring the Fraser and upper Colorado rivers in Grand County, where according to the release temperatures are getting close to dangerous levels for trout.
According to the release, trout anglers should try to fish early in the day and at higher elevation lakes and streams.
Anglers should also try to use a heavier tippet and line to reel in and release the fish quickly, the release said, wet their hands before handling a fish and keep the fish submerged while unhooking and releasing it, not even taking the fish out of the water for a photo.