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Eagle County anglers urged to monitor stream temps

If the water is warmer than 68 degrees, stop fishing

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends releasing fish as quickly as possible after they’re caught. Anglers should minimize how much they handle fish, and keep fish submerged while unhooking and releasing fish.
Michael Salomone/Special to the Daily

Low streamflows and warm weather are combining to make life difficult for fish in the Eagle River.

The Eagle River Watershed Council recently released information on the potentially deadly combination, and asked users to sign up for more information.

Trout become stressed when water temperatures climb above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and people are encouraged to stop fishing when stream temperatures hit 65 degrees. That’s fairly common at lower elevations along the Eagle River.



Warm water can lead Colorado Parks and Wildlife to close streams to fishing. According to Travis Duncan, a spokesman for CPW, the state has closed fishing once so far this year in the northwest part of the state: along a stretch of the Yampa River downstream from Stagecoach state park.

In an email, Duncan noted that warm water makes trout more susceptible to disease. Warm water can also promote algae blooms in rivers and reservoirs. Those blooms can deplete oxygen supplies.



Duncan advised all anglers to carry thermometers this time of year, a recommendation echoed by local fishing guides.

Right now, the best idea is to fish the Eagle before noon.

“Fish in the morning and golf in the afternoon,” Eagle River Anglers owner Bob Nock said. Nock noted that higher elevations generally stay cooler, often staying below the stress threshold all day.

But, Nock added, don’t expect to find cool water in the lower valley even near or just after sunset.

“Temperatures can stay high well into the evenings,” Nock said.

Water temperatures can also vary quite a bit on the same stretch of water.

Nick Keogh, a manager at Minturn Anglers, said there are streamflow measurement sites at Kremmling, Catamount and Dotsero on the upper Colorado River. Those three spots can vary quite a bit in temperature, Keogh said. Shady spots are cooler, of course, as are river stretches with faster-flowing water. On the Eagle, the temperature can be significantly warmer at Gypsum than at Wolcott, Keogh added.

People fishing in warmer temperatures should be aware of a couple of tactics.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends releasing fish as quickly as possible after they’re caught. Anglers should minimize how much they handle fish, and keep fish submerged while unhooking and releasing fish.

“Skip the photos for now,” Duncan wrote in an email.

Nock recommends releasing fish in slow water near the streambank.

Keogh said using heavier tackle is advisable right now. Heavier tackle helps land fish more quickly, so they aren’t as tired when they’re released.

Cooler water is found largely at higher elevations, and Minturn Anglers and other guide companies often have permits for those streams.

Ultimately, though, “there’s only so much you can do,” Keogh said.

By the numbers

484: June 25 Eagle River streamflow, in cubic feet per second, at the Avon wastewater treatment plant.

1,080: June 25 median streamflow at the same location.

693: June 25 Eagle River streamflow just below Gypsum.

1,940: June 25 median streamflow at the same location.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey


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