Colorado Wildlife Commission also designates new catch and release waters on the Arkansas River
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Wildlife Commission approved new fishing regulations and license numbers and seasons for the 2011 spring and fall turkey seasons at the group’s Nov. 12 meeting in Yuma.
The major agenda item was the regularly scheduled five-year fishing regulation update, with some changes size restrictions and tackle requirements in some streams, lakes and reservoirs.
Two big changes were aimed at halting the spread of invasive aquatic nuisance species.
“The spread of aquatic nuisance species is a serious problem that threatens to disrupt our fisheries and potentially restrict angler opportunity,” said wildlife commission chairman Tim Glenn. “We are going to deal with these things aggressively.”
During the final discussion on the new fishing regulations, commissioners adopted a recommendation from the Fish Health Board to make it illegal to transport live crayfish anywhere on the west slope of Colorado.
The regulation is designed to prevent the spread of non-native crayfish, including rusty crayfish, an aggressive, invasive species that was found in the Yampa River near Steamboat in 2009 and more recently in Sanchez Reservoir in the San Luis Valley. If anglers want to use crayfish for bait, they are required by regulation to catch it and use it at the water where they are fishing and not move any live crayfish between waters.
Sanchez Reservoir was placed under an emergency order prohibiting live crayfish movement. For more information about rusty crayfish, stopping the spread of invasive species, and to read the emergency closure orders, see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/InvasiveSpecies/RustyCrayfish.htm.
In a second major change to statewide fishing regulations, Commissioners approved regulations which restrict transport of bait fish from one body of water to another to prevent movement of fish diseases or invasive species. People fishing in most of the eastern part of the state will only be allowed to collect bait fish for use in the body of water where the bait fish are captured. Because waters within the Arkansas River drainage are connected through water distribution systems, anglers can catch and move bait fish within Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero and Prowers Counties.
Commissioners also responded to a citizen petition requesting new regulations for a popular two-mile tail water fishery on the Arkansas River below Pueblo Reservoir. The new regulation restricts tackle to artificial flies and lures from the reach beginning at the bridge near Valco Ponds downstream to Pueblo Boulevard. In addition, all trout 16 inches or larger caught in this section must be immediately returned to the water. The portion of the river near the Pueblo Nature Center is exempted from these new restrictions.
In another matter on the agenda, commissioners established turkey license numbers for the 2011 spring and fall seasons. With the new license allocation system, turkey hunters will see more over-the-counter turkey licenses in areas east of Interstate 25.
“Turkey populations are doing very well in eastern Colorado,” said Ed Gorman, small game manager for the Division of Wildlife. ”Not only are numbers increasing, but turkeys are expanding their range into areas where they did not occur as recently as five years ago. This has created new opportunities for sportsmen.”
According to the International Hunter Education Association, turkey hunting is the fastest-growing form of hunting in the United States. Colorado is home to two subspecies of wild turkey: Merriam’s turkey, found mostly west of Interstate 25; and Rio Grande turkey, found mostly east of I-25 and in the San Luis Valley.
Commissioners also changed regulations covering how licensed rehabilitators must deal with birds that cannot be returned to the wild and discussed upcoming reviews of big game regulations.
The Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. So far in 2010, the Commission has met in Denver, Glenwood Springs, Pueblo, Durango, Gunnison, Granby, Craig and Las Animas. The Wildlife Commission will next meet for a workshop on Thursday, Dec. 9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Colorado Springs. The agenda for that meeting will be posted the week prior to the meeting at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2010/December92010.htm.
The Colorado Wildlife Commission is an 11-member board appointed by the governor. The Wildlife Commission sets Division of Wildlife regulations and policies for hunting, fishing, watchable wildlife, nongame, threatened and endangered species. The Commission also oversees Division of Wildlife land purchases and property regulations.