Basalt’s reputation looking more golden |

Basalt’s reputation looking more golden

Special to the Daily Officers with the Colorado Division of Wildlife go "electrofishing," shocking the Roaring Fork River then scooping up the stunned trout with nets. The fish were weighed and measured before they were released. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Basalt’s national reputation as a trout-fishing mecca is likely to be even stronger by next spring.The Colorado Division of Wildlife is sampling the population and size of trout in the Roaring Fork River between its confluences with the Fryingpan and Crystal rivers to see if it warrants classification as a “gold medal fishery.”To earn that lofty distinction, a river must produce 12 trout of 14 inches or more per surface acre of water and 60 pounds of trout per surface acre. The Fryingpan River below Ruedi already has the distinction, as does the Roaring Fork from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs.

Alan Czenkusch, an aquatic biologist for the Division of Wildlife, said he believes research will prove that the 13-mile stretch of the Roaring Fork River between Basalt and Carbondale also deserves the distinction.If it does, that would make a continuous, 42-mile stretch of gold medal rivers on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork – between Ruedi dam and Glenwood Springs – that has gold medal status.”It would be the biggest hunk of gold medal in the state – by a long shot,” Czenkusch said.Currently, less than 175 miles of Colorado’s more than 9,000 miles of trout streams hold gold-medal designation.

To test the Roaring Fork stretch’s worthiness, 13 wildlife officers from the Roaring Fork Valley and elsewhere in the region went “electrofishing” on the river with four rafts yesterday.Two of the boats had workers continuously throwing out what looked like pitchforks hooked to lines that were connected to motors. Those electrical systems gave out precisely measured shocks that stunned the trout and whitefish.The fish, temporarily paralyzed, floated to or near the top and were scooped up by other wildlife officers with nets on the end of eight-foot poles. Usually a toss of the electric pitchfork would produce a fish or two, but one particular hole was home for a dozen or more trout. The captives were placed in holding tanks on the rafts. When those tanks were full, the officers on the other rafts would go to a bank and use netting to set up small holding pens in the river. The fish would be transferred into the pen, then scooped up in the nets, placed in buckets and individually weighed, measured and marked.

Roughly 75 percent of the captured trout were browns while the remainder were rainbows, which are stocked in the river.Nearly all the trout came in at greater than 13 inches and between one and two pounds. One of the biggest catches was an 18-inch lunker of a rainbow weighing in at more than two pounds.”The numbers of fish and the size of the ones we were seeing looked real good,” said Pat Tucker, regional manager for the DOW.Vail Colorado

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