Summit river keeps gold medal status
SILVERTHORNE – The Lower Blue River is tenuously holding onto its coveted gold medal fishery status – an honor that might have been lost if not for the Blue River Restoration Project.And even then, it could only be a matter of time before the Blue is no longer considered among the state best trout fishing spots, said Andy Gentry, president of the Gore Range chapter of Trout Unlimited.”It looks like we’re holding,” he said. “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to hold onto the gold medal status, but I don’t know for how long. Without the work, we probably would have lost it.”The gold medal status also is seen as a economic plus as it draws fisherman to Summit County.
Restoration work included deepening and narrowing the channel from the base of the Dillon Reservoir dam to the bridge near Wildernest Road in Silverthorne. By realigning the river to restore its curves and eddies where fish feed and reproduce, planting vegetation to reduce erosion and moving boulders to create pools, the state Division of Wildlife hoped to create a better life for trout – especially in light of lower water flows coming from the Dillon Dam.Gentry blames low water flows released from Dillon Reservoir for decreasing fish populations in the Blue River.”It’s a never-ending saga,” Gentry said. “You don’t have any water, you don’t have any fish. And it’s not going to get any better. I don’t know where all that water’s going to come from. We just don’t have it.”
The town of Silverthorne and an array of other entities have been working to maintain that precious gold medal status on the river. More than 9,000 miles of streams and rivers wend their way around the state, and the Colorado Wildlife Commission has designated only 12 streams comprising 168 miles worthy of Gold Medal status.Summit County is unique because it boasts one of those streams and is within a two-hour drive of seven others: two sections of the South Platte, the Colorado, Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers, Gore Creek and Spinney Mountain Reservoir.”When somebody is thinking about going fishing, the gold medal status puts in their mind there’s going to be lots of fish – generally, gigantic fish,” said Trapper Rudd, owner of Cutthroat Anglers in Silverthorne, in an interview last year. “Every angler wants to catch a trophy fish.”
This fall, wildlife crews counted 1,150 brown trout that were 6 inches or larger per mile in the river below the reservoir. A count in 2002 yielded 1,763 trout per mile. That barely meets the criteria for Gold Medal status, part of which requires that a river hold 40 pounds of 12- to 14-inch fish per acre.”Just looking at those numbers would be a concern,” said Silverthorne public works director Bill Linfield. Gentry doesn’t know how long the fish can live in such conditions., he said. “If you take a plant and put it in a small container, the plant will grow to the size of the container,” he said. “Same with fish. If someone cut your environment in half, you’d be in trouble, too.”The container – in this case the river – only carries so much food and room for the fish to survive.