Yampa River reopens to fishing in Steamboat, at tailwaters

The popular stretches of river remained closed until fall last year

Steve Wyant releases a brown trout he caught in the Yampa River just below Stagecoach Reservoir in May 2021.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Anglers can once again cast lines into the Yampa River in two popular spots after Colorado Parks and Wildlife lifted closures in Steamboat Springs and the tailwaters below Stagecoach Reservoir.

The tailwaters — a heavily-fished 0.6 mile stretch of the river between the dam and the Stagecoach State Park boundary — went under a mandatory fishing closure on June 1 when flows into the reservoir dropped to just 14 cubic feet per second.

In Steamboat, the river had been closed voluntarily for eight days from Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area just south of town to the city’s western city limits near Steamboat Springs KOA Holiday. High water temperatures triggered this closure on July 20.

Both areas of the river are now open, effective immediately. The agency said recent wet weather has bolstered river flows, that combined with upcoming forecasts calling for cooler temperatures and more precipitation, allowed them to lift the closure.

CPW also lifted a partial day fishing closure on the Colorado River from Kremmling to State Bridge.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologists will continue to monitor river conditions on the Yampa and Colorado rivers,” the agency said in a news release. “Should river conditions change, voluntary and mandatory closures may be reimplemented.”

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The Yampa River in Steamboat reopened to river activities such as tubing on Monday, July 25, after it was closed a week earlier. Then, the closure on fishing was left in place, but the city and CPW indicated they would reconsider later in the week.

Angling and recreational closures that have been put in place in the last two years have generally kept the river shuttered until much later in the year.

Last year, the tailwaters section of the river closed on May 25 and didn’t reopen until Nov. 1. The Steamboat section of the river closed on July 8, and didn’t allow for anglers or other river users to get back in the water until Oct. 6.

Yampa River 2022 timeline

June 1 – Mandatory fishing closure implemented at tailwaters

July 18 – Mandatory commercial closure, voluntary activities closure

July 20 – Voluntary fishing closure implemented downtown

July 25 – Yampa River reopens to activities such as tubing

July 28 – Yampa River reopens to fishing downtown, at tailwaters

The difference this year is precipitation, as the area has seen a strong monsoonal pattern from the southwest since June, which came after the second wettest month of May since 2000.

From the start of May to July 24, Steamboat has seen 9.9 inches of rain. The average precipitation for that span of time is 6.4 inches. The same three-month period last year saw just 4.1 inches of rain and in 2020, just 4 inches.

While the river is open again, CPW is still asking anglers to take various steps to improve fish survival rates.

Steamboat Springs resident Greg Pohlman shows off a rainbow trout he caught out of the Yampa River in Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area on March 13. “The Frenchie,” Pohlman shouted to another angler across the bank, referring to the fly that caught the trout’s eye.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Fishing earlier in the day when water temperatures are lower and bringing a thermometer to measure water temperatures through the day allows anglers to target fish when there is less stress on them.

When catching a fish, CPW recommends keeping it submerged in the water while removing a hook and to avoid taking pictures that can delay returning it to the water.

Local outfitters have also suggested anglers should work to expand their fishing repertoire to include still water tactics that are often overlooked in a sport dominated by moving water.

“As these summers continue to be like this, still water fly fishing almost has to become part of a full-season angler’s repertoire,” said Scott Norris, who works in the shop at Straightline Outdoor Sports in downtown Steamboat.

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