Fly fishing

Don’t stress the fish | New

This weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer season. This is wonderful news for festival-goers and high mountain outdoor enthusiasts – and terrible news for trout.

Fish are stressed right now: Earlier this week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife declared an emergency fishery shutdown “due to extremely low water flow caused by dry conditions and snowpack levels. minimal ‘on a half-mile stretch of the Yampa River further north in the west. part of the state (near Craig).

If the flow improves “considerably for a continuous period” – due to large storms, which are not in the forecast – “CPW will reassess the emergency shutdown,” Senior Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin said in a statement. hurry. “But due to the current conditions, we must act now.” When water flows are minimal, according to the release, “the fish concentrate in the residual habitat of the pool and become stressed due to increased competition for food resources.” This leads to another problem: “Fish become much easier targets for anglers, an additional stressor that can lead to increased hook mortality.”

Telluride Fly Fishers chief guide Goose Bennett said local rivers aren’t as threatened as this stretch of the Yampa.

“Right now we’re not having terrible times, but neither are we having good times,” Bennett said. “A few years ago when we had very little snow in the winter” (which resulted in very little runoff), “it was terrible.”

Bennett, who has a college degree in fish biology and has been a guide for more than two decades in the western mountains and Alaska, offered a description of what it feels like to be a stressed fish when caught. be a coward. “Imagine the wind pulling you off” – the catch and release part – “then put your mouth in a paper bag and try to breathe” (as you are thrown back into oxygen-depleted waters).

“This fish is going to swim and it looks like everything will be fine,” Bennett continued. “And in less than an hour, he’s floating on the river.”

Even a slight difference in altitude and sun exposure can make a big difference in a fish’s stress. “It’s lower in Placerville” than upstream, said Bennett.

“When the sun hits the water, it heats it up. And as the water rolls over rocks exposed to the sun, “the warming effect becomes more pronounced. Warmer water can be particularly harmful to some species (“A brook trout wants cooler water,” Bennett explained, “while a brown trout can tolerate heat.”)

“In July, we expect thunderstorms. It’s going to cool the river, ”Bennett added. “If we get decent rain, ‘warmer water and lower flowers’ won’t be as much of a problem. But if we don’t get more rain, August in particular will be tough. From September, it will start to cool down again. The water will still be low, but the temperatures will drop, so we won’t harm the fish as much.

“It’s good to go out all day at this time.”

Which implies that for the moment, this is not the case.

“I’m monitoring the water temperature,” Bennett said simply. “When it starts to go into the 50s and 60s, we are not fishing. I literally say “no” “to customers who might ask.”

Bennett is happy to take people fishing (he’s a guide, after all) but he offered a suggestion for those who might want to go on their own: buy a water thermometer. “I can put my hand in the water and tell what the temperature is,” Bennett said, “but for new anglers my advice is to buy one of these thermometers. They are wrapped so they won’t break and you can attach them to things. “Thermometers cost around $ 10.

Bennett offered another suggestion for anglers who worry about not stressing the fish: get your catch back in the water quickly. “You don’t want to play fish for too long,” he says. “Release it and put it back in the water as soon as possible.” Indeed, from the moment Bennett takes a fish out of the water to withdraw the hook until he releases it, “I hold my breath, because the fish are too,” he said. “It’s fair, isn’t it?”

For more information on fishing in Colorado, visit the CPW online at Telluride Fly Fishers has been offering guided tours in this region for 30 years. Learn more about or by calling 970-728-4440.

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