Portions of Colorado, Eagle rivers now under full-day fishing closures following 75-degree temps near Dotsero

The Eagle River turns to flow west at Wolcott, before it joins the Colorado River at Dotsero. A voluntary fishing closure has been enacted for the Eagle River below Wolcott in the afternoons, when water temperatures often exceed 70 degrees.
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The Colorado River hit 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit near Dotsero last week, which is more than 5 degrees higher than the temperature deemed safe for fishing.

When water temperatures exceed 70 degrees, fish often stop feeding and become more susceptible to disease, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife enacts voluntary fishing closures on waterways throughout the state.

When those fishing closures went into effect in Eagle County last week (on the Eagle River below the Eagle County fairgrounds, and the Colorado River below State Bridge) the closures began at noon, as water temperatures were often below 70 degrees before mid-day.

When the Colorado near Dotsero hit 75.2 degrees at its hottest point on July 17, however, the corresponding low was only 68.7 the next morning. By 10:30 a.m. on July 18, the temperature was already back up to 70 degrees.

All-day closures

On July 20, the local fishing closures became all-day closures, and on the Eagle River those fishing closures now start at Wolcott rather than the fairgrounds. The voluntary closure on the Colorado River still begins at State Bridge, but instead of ending in Glenwood Canyon the closure now runs all the way to Rifle.

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The Colorado River District said it will “continue to do our part with voluntary releases when water is available from our limited resources at Wolford Mountain Reservoir,” but also put out a plea to the cities and water districts that divert Western Slope water to the Front Range, asking for more water to help with the high temperatures that come with low flows.

“Our constituents are … wondering why large Front Range providers are not reducing their transmountain diversions to join the River District in aiding Colorado’s namesake river and the livelihoods it supports,” said Brendon Langenhuizen, the river district’s director of technical advocacy.

Denver Water Communications Manager Travis Thompson, in a July 21 Denver Post YourHub story, acknowledged that people are wondering why the utility isn’t able to act right now to provide more water.

“One challenge has to do with water rights and honoring cross-Divide agreements reached with multiple parties over the years,” Thompson said.

Denver Water has approximately 20,000 acre-feet of water that it is obligated to release from Wolford and Williams Fork reservoirs in the next few months, and releasing water early is not possible due to agreements that dictate how and when the water is released, Thompson said.

“After a lackluster snowpack season coupled with reservoir storage restrictions at Gross Dam due to construction, Denver Water’s planners simply don’t have enough water in storage to be able to bypass extra water to the river at this time,” Thompson said.

Black Lake No. 1 on Vail Pass is stocked with 2,500 pounds of trout, which were raised by a Boulder-based fishery.
Eagle River Water and Sanitation District | Courtesy image

Upvalley fishing still OK

While the all-day closure from Wolcott to Rifle is certainly restrictive for local guide companies, it’s not the largest voluntary fishing closure Eagle County has ever seen.

In 2002, a voluntary fishing closure on the Eagle River was enacted for all areas below Avon. Upvalley, flows in Vail were reported to have dropped below 10 cubic feet per second that year, and fishing guides on Gore Creek reported receiving notes on their vehicles threatening “damage to personal property if the guides were caught fishing Gore Creek past noon,” the Vail Trail reported.

On Gore Creek and the Upper Eagle River this year, the water remains cold enough to fish this season. Higher-altitude locations are also an option for those who don’t require massive amounts of rushing water for their recreational fix. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is encouraging anglers to seek out high-elevation lakes and streams, some of which you might even find stocked with trout.

On July 21 the two Black Lakes located adjacent to Interstate 70 near the Vail Pass exit were stocked with more than 2,000 rainbow trout, measuring between 9 and 14 inches long.

The trout were raised by a Boulder-based fishery that is licensed and health-inspected by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which annually tests the fishery’s trout to ensure each lot is healthy and free of disease, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District reported.

The district stocks the lakes annually under the terms of a 1986 agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The July 21 stocking was the second stocking of 2022, the district reported.

“2,500 pounds of fish went into the lakes on Jun. 14, and another 2,500 pounds went in on Jul. 21,” the district reported. “The two cold-water reservoirs are operated as part of the water supply system developed by the district, which is responsible for the public water system serving the town of Vail and by contract, communities from EagleVail through Cordillera.”

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