VALLEY — Because of this winter’s low snowpack and the unseasonably hot and dry weather this spring and summer, southern Colorado is experiencing extreme drought conditions.
This has resulted in unusually low flows in local streams which, combined with hotter temperatures, can have serious impacts on fish, especially coldwater species like trout. The dissolved oxygen content within a stream is directly impacted by flow and temperatures (warmer temps and lower flows equal lower oxygen content), resulting in less holding capacity for fish and aquatic insects. These tougher conditions can affect all aspects of a trout’s life including recovery after being hooked and then released. Local guides and fishermen are reporting fish fatalities throughout local streams in the afternoons.
Once water temperatures reach 67 degrees and higher it is too warm to fish and fish will not survive after being caught and released in these conditions. Just in the past few days water temperatures above 70 degrees have been recorded along the main stem of the Rio Grande!
Due to the present conditions, the San Luis Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited is requesting that fishermen fish earlier in the mornings and to stop fishing at noon. Below are our top 5 fishing tips for fishing these existing stream conditions.
1. Respect the Fishery – When conditions become too extreme for fish, consider putting the rods away or fishing somewhere else. This could be a good time to explore another part of the state. Rivers in northern Colorado are in much better shape including the Arkansas. There is no need to over-stress and kill the fish we all love. Help the fish make it through a tough year by limiting the times you catch them.
2. Keep the Fight Short – Land and release the fish as quickly as possible so the fish don’t expend too much energy. Use heavier tippet and do not handle the fish any more than possible. Make sure they are revived enough to swim away from you before releasing them. Using barbless hooks or flattening the barbs on your hooks will also reduce stress to the fish significantly. Consider carrying a small pocket thermometer if you are unsure about the water temperature, they are inexpensive and available at any local fly shop.
3. Fish Early – Fish earlier in the morning when the ambient air temperatures are lower. Fishing the cooler times will reduce stress on the fish and the fishing can be better too!
4. Fish Higher Up – Consider fishing higher up in mountains in some of the tributaries and alpine lakes. This will reduce stress on lower level streams and you can still have a great time fishing, you might even discover a new place with great fishing!
5. It’s Not All Bad! – Colorado is experiencing a tough water year but many of the fish can adapt and survive these conditions if we do our part by following these few guidelines. If you have questions about when and where to fish please call or visit one of your local fly shops.
SLV Trout Unlimited thanks residents for their cooperation!