State biologists eye new Blue River regs
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Rolling through a steep, sagebrush studded canyon in the far northern corner of Summit County toward its confluence with the Colorado, the Blue River harbors one of the area’s richest and most remote fisheries.
But an impending land swap will ease access to the river, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) is establishing new regulations for anglers along that reach. The new regs could make or break the fishery, according to Front Range resident Chuck Obermeyer, who is advocating for a restrictive catch and release regime.
CDOW staff will meet early next week to shape its recommendations, to be presented to the Colorado Wildlife Commission in early November. Obermeyer said the agency appears to be leaning toward a compromise that would allow some limited take in the canyon.
A recent round of electro-shocking in the river was used to determine fish size and density in the reach, and agency biologists said they will base their recommendation partly on the scientific data gleaned from the study, as well as from input garnered during a series of public meetings.
Most of the public comments favored the catch and release scenario, but some anglers also said they could live with some limited take from the river as a secondary recommendation, said Shannon Schwab, one of Summit County’s CDOW wildlife managers.
Schwab said the agency did receive petitions from some groups supporting at least some limited take of fish from the canyon, and some of the data from the shocking may support that direction.
“Generally what we found in the canyon is that recruitment is good. There is a pretty high density of smaller brown trout. That’s why we included the option of allowing some keep of smaller browns under 12 inches,” Schwab said.
The agency’s recommendation to the wildlife commission will likely include a range of options, including strict catch and release, as well as an alternative envisioning some keep.
Schwab said that some anglers commented to the agency after the public sessions that they’d like to see something other than pure catch and release, but that they felt outnumbered during the meetings, and thus unwilling to speak up.
“We have to make our decision based on what the biology supports and what the public wants,” Schwab said. She also explained that a high percentage of the state high quality fisheries are already under restrictive regulations.
Obermeyer said the plan to allow some limited keep of smaller fish doesn’t make sense from a standpoint of protecting the resource. He said the agency will have a hard time enforcing the size limit, and that increased pressure from the new access will decimate the trout population in the canyon.
Based on angler numbers from other productive tailwater (below a dam) fisheries, he said he expects between 50 to 100 anglers per day to fish in the canyon, and predicted that the smaller fish will disappear within one to two years.
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