CPW announces expanded bear hunting, longer fishing license period
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Fishing licenses for the 2020 season became available Saturday, Feb. 29, as did applications for big-game hunting, marking the start of a busy but prosperous time of year for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
This fishing and hunting season brings some important changes to keep in mind, from an expanded bear season to a new, secondary draw system for big-game licenses.
Money generated from fishing and hunting activities continues to be a major source of income for wildlife management, recreation infrastructure and conservation efforts in Colorado, CPW officials said in a news release on Friday, Feb. 28.
License fees have increased slightly, by 1.3% in most cases, due to the Future Generations Act, which allows CPW to adjust pricing to meet demands of increased management costs and recreation popularity across the state.
Revenue from hunting and fishing licenses rose by almost 20% last fiscal year, according to CPW, owing in large part to fee increases. The agency said it plans to use the money as a way to reach its 2025 goals, among which are efforts to expand public land access, improve wildlife areas and plan a new state park.
Hunters now can apply for deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep licenses during the state’s primary draw period. As in the previous year, hunters must buy a qualifying license, such as spring turkey and small-game licenses, to participate in the big-game draw.
The deadline to participate in the primary draw is 8 p.m. April 7.
A key difference to this year’s big-game license system is the introduction of a secondary draw, which replaces the old leftover draw. The secondary draw is open to everyone, even hunters who did not participate in the primary draw. Unlike the old system, the secondary draw does not award preference points, but youth hunters are given preference on all hunt codes.
Applications for the secondary draw open on June 5 and close on July 7.
It still holds true that a hunter’s best chance to draw a big game license is during the primary draw when the largest number of licenses are available.
Due to lower-than-expected harvest numbers, wildlife managers have increased bear hunting quotas across the state, according to CPW. Bear license fees also have decreased.
Fishing changes and the best places to cast
New for the 2020-21 fishing season, licenses will be valid for an extra month. Colorado fishing licenses now are valid from Sunday, March 1, to March 31, 2021. Previously, the licenses were valid from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. Anglers ages 18 to 64 must purchase a $10 Habitat Stamp along with their first license of the year.
While ice still covers much of the Yampa River, anglers are itching to get their flies in the water.
Keith Hale, a guide at Steamboat Flyfisher, fielded a bustle of fishing-frenzied customers over the weekend.
“Everyone is chewing at the bit,” he said.
With shop windows that overlook the Yampa River, Hale can offer a firsthand account of winter’s slow recession. He said much of the ice on the river’s surface is melting, with sections, particularly near downtown, opening up to fishing.
He advised anglers to wait a week or so before trying to cast in the upper portions of the Yampa River, near Fetcher’s Pond, where the water remains covered in ice.
Asked about prime fishing holes this time of year, Hale recommended people travel further upriver, to the tailwaters of Stagecoach Reservoir. The reservoir itself is a popular place for ice fishing this time of year. Sarvis Creek, east of Stagecoach, has been a coveted spot for a more remote experience, Hale said, with people making the trek on snowshoes and snowmobiles.
Steamboat Lake, one of Colorado’s top-rated lakes for fishing, has seen a steady stream of anglers, according to visitor center representative Cecilia Garza.
The North Routt lake is considered one of the state’s “Gold Metal Waters,” a term CPW uses to highlight bodies of water that offer higher chances of snagging trophy trout. It denotes any river or lake that has at least 12 trout per acre that are 14 inches or longer on a regular basis.
As far as bait, Garza has seen everything from shrimp eggs to night crawlers to metal lures. On rivers, Hale recommends San Juan worms or stoneflies.
“They are in the water year-round and fish like them,” he said.
He added some fish are starting to chase streamers, wooly buggers and leeches, as long as fishermen reel them in slowly.
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