City approves 2 angling permits but still working to limit impacts on Yampa River
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As Routt County prepares for a summer predicted to be marked by extreme drought, the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission has adjusted the Yampa River Master Plan to preserve the river and its aquatic wildlife.
The commission voted earlier this year to allow commercial river operators to give tubing and angling outfitters the ability to flex their daily allotments as needed each month, which is also part of a larger effort to take better care of the river.
Because the commission voted to make such a change earlier this year, Parks and Recreation staff recommended the commission vote to limit the number of angling permits allowed on the river.
“Before we make more changes, we wanted to understand the impacts of the change we already had,” Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said.
The commission voted Tuesday to approve angling permits for Brooklyn Outfitters and 970 Outfitters in addition to Straightline Sports, Yampa River Outfitters, Bucking Rainbow, Steamboat Flyfisher and North Park Fishing Club, which already have permits to operate on the river. But commission members agreed that would be the limit.
“More angling outfitters could increase monthly user days along the river by roughly 240 people each month,” said Craig Robinson, Steamboat parks, open space and trails manager.
Robinson also said the city was not able to hire river rangers this year due to budget cuts, and more people on the river could require more supervision.
Patrick Gamble, a fly-fishing guide at Straightline Sports, said he is glad the city is working to limit the number of outfitters on the river, because he believes the river and its aquatic life should be protected and more traffic on the river causes damage.
“Because we are so reliant on the health of the Yampa River, we’re also very aware and passionate about making sure its fish are here for us tomorrow,” Gamble said. “The accessibility of the Yampa River in town is phenomenal, and we’re lucky to have a world-class trout fishery that’s just down the road.”
However, as Steamboat continues to grow, and more visitors come to town in the summer, city staff said the river continues to see more litter and other problems. This, combined with the extreme drought, is likely to lead to a short season of fishing, tubing and other water sports on the Yampa, Robinson said.
“With snowpack being as low as it is, it really depends on what the spring runoff weather looks like, but it seems like we can expect closures as the summer progresses, especially as we’re remaining in a drought pattern,” Robinson said. “We will work with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and do river closures as necessary to protect our fishery.”
However, both businesses that applied for permits said they wanted to utilize the river in Steamboat’s slower seasons, like October and November, to help people fish in the Yampa River without adding extra traffic.
“We want to utilize the city and the river when we don’t have lots of people here, and we want to provide a fishing experience to someone in a time frame that isn’t going to hurt the river,” said Colin Taylor, owner of Brooklyn Outfitters.
The commissioners agreed this was likely to put less of a strain on the river, which is why they ultimately voted to approve the two new permits.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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