Drought causes emergency closure of fishing on part of Yampa River



Dry conditions and minimal snowpack led Colorado Parks and Wildlife to adopt the emergency measure in Stagecoach State Park.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) on Monday declared an emergency stop for fishing on part of the Yampa River in Routt County due to extremely low water flow.

The closure will come into effect Tuesday on a stretch of the Yampa River between the dam at Stagecoach State Park and the lower limit of the park. Dry conditions and minimal snowpack levels made the closure necessary, CPW said in a press release.

While recent rains have eased drought conditions on the Front Range, conditions are still dry on the Western Slope. Most of Routt County has been experiencing extreme or exceptional drought since May 18, according to the US Drought Monitor.

“Due to current conditions, we must take this action now,” Lori Martin, CPW’s senior aquatic biologist, said in the statement, adding that CPW would reassess if conditions change.

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Water discharges from the Stagecoach reservoir were 20% of average, CPW said. When water flows are minimal, fish become stressed due to increased competition for food. Fish are also becoming much easier targets for anglers, which is an added stressor, CPW said.

When fish are affected by low water flows or other negative environmental conditions, the population can take several years to recover, according to wildlife officials.

“This part of the river is under tremendous fishing pressure, especially in the spring when other resources may not be as accessible,” Bill Atkinson, aquatic biologist for the CPW region, said in the release. “This emergency shutdown is an effort to protect the resource by giving the fish a bit of a break, as they can become very stressed during these extreme low water conditions. This spring, we did not see an increase in flows. , which can provide protection for fish and allow them to regain energy after the spring spawning season.

Atkinson said CPW was proactive in protecting the release fishery downstream of the Stagecoach Reservoir.

CPW has advised anglers to find other fishing grounds until the emergency order is revoked. The agency said the fishery closure would be imposed by law with citations for anyone who violates it.

Due to extreme drought conditions, other stretches of river in this region may also be subject to closures this season, CPW said. Stagecoach State Park is in Routt County, approximately 17 miles south of Steamboat Springs.

For more information, contact Stagecoach State Park at 970-736-2436 or the CPW office in Steamboat Springs at 970-870-2197.

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