OAK CREEK, Colo. – An emergency fishing closure is now in effect for a stretch of the Yampa River due to critically low water flow, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said in a news release Wednesday.
The mandatory fishing closure along a 0.6-mile stretch of the Yampa River between the dam at Stagecoach State Park downstream to the lowermost park boundary (pictured in the map below) was implemented due dry conditions and minimal snowpack levels in the area, state wildlife officials said.
As of May 31, the Yampa and White rivers were 104% of median due to the recent snowstorms that have dumped some much needed snow in the area, but data from the USDA shows the snow water equivalent for the river continues on a downward trend as late spring comes to a close, giving way to the warmer summer months.
"Should the flow rate increase substantially for a continuous period of time, CPW will re-evaluate the emergency fishing closure," said CPW senior aquatic biologist Lori Martin. "But because of the current conditions, we need to take this course of action now."
The closure along this stretch of the Yampa River this year is happening about a week later than last year, when CPW enacted the closure for the same reasons.
Water releases are currently near 20% of average and will be dropping to approximately 15% of average, CPW officials said, which will create concentrations of fish in a pool habitat, creating stress among them as they compete for scarce food resources. CPW said the fish then become much easier targets for anglers which results in 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. This stretch of the river receives a tremendous amount of fishing pressure, especially in the spring when other resources might not be as accessible,” said CPW Area Aquatic Biologist Bill Atkinson. “This emergency closure is an effort to protect the resource by giving the fish a bit of a reprieve as they can become quite stressed during these extreme low-flow conditions. 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CPW is now advising anglers to find alternative areas to fish until the order is rescinded and warn other stretches of the river in the area could be subjected to additional closures this season “given the extreme drought conditions we are currently faced with.”
Citations will be issued for anyone violating the order.