Fewer folks fishing Colorado streams
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” Sarah Langston caught a five-pound brown trout the first time she went fishing a year ago in the Arkansas River.
Langston couldn’t get enough of it and now she fishes the Eagle River ” in her Eagle-Vail backyard.
“It makes you want to fish more,” she said. “It makes you want to catch bigger fish.”
With local anglers like Langston and plenty of tourists who enjoy fishing, the sport is growing in Eagle County if not in Colorado, anglers say.
However, last year in Colorado, 28 percent fewer people fished than in 2001, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey to be published soon.
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Fishing license sales decreased by 13 percent from 2001 to 2006, said Tyler Baskfield, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“I think there’s a slight trend of a decline, but we see blips,” he said.
Just because license sales decrease for several years doesn’t signal a trend, Baskfield said.
The decision to buy a fishing license depends on prices of fuel and other economic factors, and even Colorado’s drought may dissuade some from fishing, he said.
The Division of Wildlife “heavily” promotes fishing, Baskfield said.
The agency’s Web site has a weekly fishing report with details about what bait to use and where to go. And Fishing is Fun, an annual program where kids are given fishing rods and a one-day lesson, helps grow the sport, Baskfield said.
This year, Colorado reservoirs and streams were stocked with millions of fish, from minnows to 20-inch trout, he said.
“We’re doing all kinds of things to make sure people take advantage of the great fishing that we have here in Colorado,” Baskfield said.
“I don’t find it’s on the decline,” said Bob Streb, owner of Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon. “We’re 20 percent up.”
Fly Fishing outfitters sees an increase every year of people who buy guiding trips to fish the Vail Valley’s streams during winter, he said.
Most of those people are tourists who come out for a week’s vacation and are looking for something else after skiing several days, he said.
“They’re toast by day four and looking for a change,” Streb said. “Most of the concierges around here are smart enough to recommend some fly-fishing.”
Many parts of the Eagle River freeze during winter, but wastewater treatment plants discharge warm water into the rivers, he said.
“It’s actually a great time to fish,” he said.
Jim Kanda, general manager of Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, agrees. The fly-fishing shop is doing more guided fishing trips than ever, he said.
“We have world-class fishing,” Kanda said about the Vail Valley.
An 11 percent tax on fishing poles and tackle contributes several million dollars each year for fish habitat preservation, boat ramps, fish hatcheries and education in Colorado, said Nicholas Throckmorton, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Fishing licenses contributed $12.5 million to the Colorado Division of Wildlife in 2005, the last year that statistics were available, Throckmorton said.
The decline is troubling because anglers contribute so much to wildlife agencies, whose funding comes from the excise tax and fishing license sales, he said.
The study is done once every five years, when Fish and Wildlife surveys 85,000 households on hunting and fishing. So the gaps between survey years aren’t accounted for, he said.
“We don’t know if it’s a long-term trend, and unfortunately, it’ll take us another five years to figure that out,” Throckmorton said.
Many anglers stop to fish renown rivers like the Blue River in Breckenridge and Silverthorne or the Frying Pan in Basalt, said Jim Kanda, general manager of Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Some anglers go to those streams just to fish, he said.
But some may not realize that Gore Creek has some of the best fishing in the world, he said. It’s a gold medal stream, which contain bigger fish than average streams.
“We’re not quite there to be a destination fly-fishery yet, but we’re certainly getting there,” Kanda said.
Vail has a large tourism base and with excellent hotels, restaurants, skiing and golfing, he said.
“There’s no reason this couldn’t become a destination fishery,” Kanda said. “It just has to be looked at, or perceived that way.”
Until that happens, locals like Kanda and Langston will continue to avoid crowds at Eagle County streams.
“It’s good for us because we like to fish quiet rivers, but not as good for business,” Kanda said.
Wildlife’s weekly fishing report online:
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.