Sylvan Lake lifts fishing bag limits in anticipation of draining reservoir for dam project | VailDaily.com

Sylvan Lake lifts fishing bag limits in anticipation of draining reservoir for dam project

EAGLE — As Sylvan Lake State Park eyes its big dam improvement project next summer, local fishermen can help with preparations.

Beginning Friday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has authorized an emergency fish salvage plan that lifts bag limits for all species in the reservoir. The action will continue until further notice.

The bag limit lift will assist plans to drain the 42-surface-acre lake down to 5 surface acres next year. Sylvan Lake's 1940s-era dam will be replaced next summer, which means the lake will be drained and camping opportunities will be curtailed at the popular destination located 17 miles south of Eagle.

"With this effort, we are trying to reduce the number of fish that will have to survive next summer. It will be easier for the fish to survive if there are less of them in the reservoir," said Sylvan Lake State Park Supervisor Michael Wall.

The fishing bag limit at Sylvan Lake is normally four per day. The new rules will allow fishermen to keep as many as eight fish per day. Wall noted that although the bag limit has been lifted, possession regulations remain in place.

He added other fishing regulations at Sylvan Lake will also remain in place including:

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• A fishing license is required for anglers age 16 and older.

• Second rod stamps are required.

• A state park pass is required.

• Only electric or hand-propelled vessels are allowed on the lake.

• Life jackets are required for all boat passengers.

Outside of the lake area, the annual spawning closure will remain in place from the reservoir's inlet to a half-mile upstream between Friday and Nov. 30. Anglers are prohibited from fishing in this area until Dec. 1 to protect spawning brown and brook trout.

Dam effort

Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced its Sylvan Lake dam replacement earlier this month. Wall said there is no imminent danger associated with the current dam, but because it was built nearly 70 years ago, it does not meet today's safety standards. The replacement calls for a new structure that meets the current standards and that can prevent future failures by armoring it against the possibility of a large flood.

The plan involves draining down Sylvan Lake, tearing out the existing earth dam and building a replacement structure out of concrete. The new dam will be covered with soil so it will look similar to the existing dam. Once it is complete, the lake will be restocked with fish. "The lake level will be raised 1 foot; that's a secondary benefit for this project," Wall said.

Wall said the project would also include a number of minor repairs to Sylvan Lake facilities and construction of a new foot bridge from the day-use parking lot to the dam structure. Currently, a plank bridge connects the two areas.

"The new bridge will be a real bridge — a rustic-looking bridge that will be an amenity for the park," Wall said.

Other than the new dam and the bridge, the lake area will remain largely unchanged. The project will not add camping capacity at the site.

Wall noted that decision was made in deference to public comment compiled during the Sylvan Lake Management Plan process.

"A lot of people said they wanted to see the lake and the park operate the same as it is now," he said.

The dam construction project is slated to begin in March, when crews will begin draining the lake.

"It (lake draining) should barely be noticeable to people downstream," Wall said.

Camping curtailed

What will be noticeable is the camping restrictions at Sylvan Lake next summer.

Because of the construction activity and traffic, the Sylvan Lake reservoir area and campground will be closed next summer. The four upper cabins at the lake, the yurts, a portion of the West Brush Creek Trail, the east side of the park and the visitor center will remain open. All of the roads accessing the national forest will remain open.

"We are trying to let everyone know (about the construction plan), especially our people who camp there every year," Wall said. "We are finding that the majority of people we talk to do know."

For more information about Sylvan Lake State Park, call 970-328-2021.