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Posted No Trespassing!

by: Ben Swigle 7/25/2013

The grass is always greener on the other side.  The adage rings true for anglers salivating at the chance to fish a private section of river or an untouched lake riddled with no trespassing signs.  Besides providing a short course in proven angling techniques, fishing guides are often recruited for their abilitiy to put clients in remote locations with little or no public access. Personally I am invited to hook and line a fair number private waters, however I infrequently accept. Frankly, my recreational angling hours are limited and I feel some degree of responsibility to put myself in the mix on public waters without the  advantage of deploying nets or electrofishing.   My experience with waters closed to public access is related to completing a fishery inventory prior to a grand opening, comparing a public versus private sections of river to verify existing fishing regulations, or providing a complementary survey that benefits the public angler via fish salvages.  Perception of fishing private waters does not always meet reality.

Let’s start with the Big Thompson River; just below Olympus Dam in Estes Park, south of the putt-putt golf and go-cart track, it is not uncommon to see upwards of 40 anglers fishing this section of river. The most recent stream survey for this section of the Big T estimated 2,680 brown and rainbow trout six inches and larger reside within 1 miles of the Lake Estes tailrace. Slightly downstream on a private section of river named “Chuck’s Place“ estimates measure the trout density near 3,000 per mile, not exactly a windfall difference relative to the heavily fished public section.

Warren Lake, a private 102 acre reservoir in mid-town Fort Collins, is home to decent populations of black crappie and bluegill sunfish – 90 hours of netting yielded a total of 112 sunfish (1.2 per hour).  Pelican Lake, a heavily fished public lake at St. Vrain State Park, boasts a sunfish catch rate of 4.3 fish per hour of netting, almost 4 times the catch rate at Warren.

Finally 3 new ponds at Loveland’s Rivers Edge - Jayhawker Natural Area will open to public fishing this fall.  The property was formally owned by Hewlett Packard with fishing limited only to employees by catch and release only. Prior to opening these new waters, electrofishing surveys were completed to install regulations and a management plans to accommodate the anticipated increase in fishing pressure.  With the ponds closed to public fishing, I my initial reaction was that we potentially had a few of Colorado’s best bass ponds set to open in our back yard.  The results of the survey were indeed good, 97 bass per hour of electrofishing with several individuals measuring greater that 15 inches. However the results we not exactly off the charts as the Jayhawker North Pond, open for 20+ years, actually had better numbers of bass (132 per hours) with plenty of larger individuals.

Getting off track here but do not trespass at the new ponds, they are heavily patrolled so just be patient.  A new regulation change encompassing the Jayhawker Pond and the new ponds effective January 1, 2013 limits bass fishing to catch and release only while a special regulation for perch limits possession to 5.

These are just a small sub-set of instances I have noticed public waters actually boast better number of fish. The reasoning behind the solid number of fish in public waters is rooted in the annual survey where regulatory adjustments can be made or hatchery personnel can be called up to increase or reduce stocking of a particular species.  Fish populations in private lakes and sections of stream are not routinely inundated on a daily basis with a variety of lures and flies, in other words fish are simply not as educated compared with fish in the public realm.  As a result catch rates in private waters may be a little better but the perception that private lakes hold more fish is generally not true.  Avoid the no trespassing signs and polish up your techniques and visit a public water – more fish likely reside there.  Go fish Colorado.  

Blog content © Ben Swigle
Member comments
opencage, CO   7/25/2013 11:03:51 AM
Yeah, I can't wait for the River's Edge Natural Area to open with those three new ponds. I hear float tubing will be allowed on them too. But definitely don't trespass. I saw a couple of guys who tried it having a "conversation" with an officer.
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   7/25/2013 11:06:26 AM
Float tubes will be allowed. That stipulation was a must when the City applied and recieved a fishing is fun grant. The city is installing features that will faciliate launching a bb.
Coyute, CO   7/25/2013 11:31:40 AM
Thanks for the info.
longdraw, CO   7/25/2013 12:10:06 PM
It's great to see some attention given to warmwater species here. Thanks for the info Ben!
panfishin, CO   7/25/2013 12:27:14 PM
i fished there a couple times about 15 years ago (yes my dad worked for HP) and saw some beasts in those ponds! might have to make a trip up there when i go visit my parents...
JKaboom, CO   7/25/2013 12:57:09 PM
So the grass is not always greener on the other side it just always looks that way - LOL - thanks for the BLOG :)
Ben Swigle
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