Extended rainfall benefits fishing in Yampa River

Jack Fisher stands in the Yampa River as it flows through Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area on Sunday, June 5. Steamboat's recent rainfall has created better water temperatures in the Yampa River, making it a better environment for the fish.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

As the rain continues in Steamboat Springs, Yampa River anglers have been blessed with more favorable water temperatures and ground moisture. 

Steamboat Flyfisher owner Johnny Spillane explained the ground moisture getting back up will only help the river and fish, and he added that, in most cases, rain is a great thing. 

“It keeps the water temperatures down,” Spillane said. “It keeps the flows up a little bit, and even if they don’t (always) open the river due to rain, just the fact that we’re getting it is better for the fish and the fishery in general. For us, we want to see as much rain as we can get.”

While the Yampa River has not closed quite as much this year as it did last year, local fishermen lost out on most of July and August and a chunk of September in 2022. 

Historically, these losses would have been a much bigger deal, but Spillane has seen these longer closures become more normal over the last seven to 10 years. 

Many anglers are hopeful to see the rain continue to fall, thinking the river may remain open slightly longer this year compared to recent years. 

“There’s three criteria that would determine a closure or trigger a closure,” Spillane said. “One is water temperature, another is water flow meaning (cubic feet per second) and the third criteria is dissolved oxygen in the river. If any of those three criteria are not being met, that will trigger a closure and that seems to be fairly common in the last five, six or seven years.”

As far as the rain’s effect on fish behavior, Spillane says it is complicated but mostly acts as a good thing for the fish and therefore a good thing for those fishing.

“In general, the colder the water temperatures in the summertime, the better it is for the fish,” Spillane said.

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