CPW enacts emergency fishing closure on portion of Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir

Steamboat resident Zach Jensen releases a trout back into the tailwaters of Stagecoach reservoir on Sunday Afternoon while his dog Yogi looks on. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

An emergency fishing closure begins tomorrow on a heavily-fished 0.6-mile stretch of the Yampa River between the dam at Stagecoach State Park downstream to the lowermost park boundary. The action is due to critically low water flow caused by dry conditions and minimal snowpack levels, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Should the flow rate increase substantially for a continuous period of time, CPW will reevaluate the emergency fishing closure,” said CPW Senior Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin in a news release. “But because of the current conditions, we need to take this course of action now.”

CPW works closely with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, which owns and operates Stagecoach Reservoir, to stay informed on reservoir releases and monitor drought conditions.

Water releases are currently only at 20% of average and will be dropping to less than 15% of average for this time period. When water flows are minimal, fish become concentrated in residual pool habitat and become stressed due to increased competition for food resources. The fish become much easier targets for anglers, an added stressor that can result in increased hooking mortality.

“We are trying to be as proactive as possible to protect the outstanding catch-and-release fishery we have downstream of Stagecoach Reservoir,” CPW Area Aquatic Biologist Bill Atkinson said. “This stretch of the river receives a tremendous amount of fishing pressure, especially in the spring when other resources might not be as accessible. This spring we have not witnessed a spike in flows, which can offer fish protection and allow them to recoup energy following the spring spawn season.”

CPW asks for cooperation from anglers, who should be aware the mandatory fishing closure will be enforced by law with citations issued for anyone violating the order.

Wildlife officials warn when a fish population is significantly affected by low stream flows or other unfavorable environmental conditions, it could take several years for it to fully recover if not protected.

“We ask for the public’s patience and cooperation,” Stagecoach State Park Manager Craig Preston said. “It is very important that we do what we can to protect this unique fishery, not only for anglers, but for the communities that depend on the tourism these resources support.”

Contact the park at 970-736-2436 or CPW’s Steamboat Springs office at 970-870-2197 for more information.

The closure will remain in effect until further notice.

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