Low flows, habitat destruction degrade fishery
Colorado’s continued unsustainable use water has taken a toll on trout in the Blue River, where Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have decided to remove the gold medal designation from a 19-mile reach stretching from just north of Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir.
According to CPW aquatic biologist Jon Ewert, unnatural stream flows, sparse aquatic invertebrate populations, low nutrient content and degraded habitat all contributed to the decline of the fishery. The agency said that stretch of the river hasn’t met the Gold Medal standard for about 15 years.
There’s better news farther downstream, where CPW designated a 24-mile reach of the Colorado River, from Canyon Creek, at the mouth of Gore Canyon, to the confluence of Rock Creek, near the town of McCoy, as a new gold medal fishery. In Colorado, Gold Medal status is reserved for state waters that produce a minimum of 60-pounds of trout per acre and 12 trout measuring 14-inches or longer per acre.
“We studied this section of the Colorado River extensively over the past eight years,” Ewert said. “We found that it is an excellent fishery.”
“The overall goal is to maintain the integrity of the Gold Medal designation,” he said. “As necessary, we will make recommendations to delist or upgrade waters, keeping in mind the intent of the designation … identifying waters where anglers can catch large, trophy-quality trout.”
CPW biologists said they would continue to monitor the delisted Blue River segment for improvements.
“It does not meet Gold Medal criteria right now, but together with the Town of Silverthorne, Denver Water and local anglers, we will work towards relisting this section as a Gold Medal water in the future,” said Sherman Hebein, a senior regional biologist with CPW.
Currently, Colorado assigns Gold Medal status to 3 lakes including North Delaney Butte, Spinney Mountain Reservoir and Steamboat Lake, totaling 3,206 surface acres. Additionally, there are 329 stream miles considered Gold Medal waters in the state, out of a total of 9000 miles.