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Go Fish Estes!

by: Ben Swigle 10/9/2013
Estes Park is open for business!  Despite some trials and tribulations getting to Estes the aspens are exhibiting vibrant color, elk viewing in town is a snap, and trout angling has been incredible.  Peak to peak highway 7 is the best route to Estes with drive times obviously more than doubled; however once in town an aspen-elk-trout triple header can be easily completed by parking at the Estes Park visitor center (500 Big Thompson Avenue).

From the visitor center follow the trail east along the Big Thompson River towards Lake Estes to view the elk and aspens.  Once you arrive at the west end of the lake you will get a firsthand look at the road reconstruction process.  At present, Lakes Estes has been temporarily lowered to serve as one of Colorado’s largest silt, sand, and rock quarries to rebuild highways 34 and 36.  Flooding combined with 65 years of operating of Olympus Dam has deposited thousands of yards of valuable materials needed to reconnect the Estes Park to communities downhill.  Virtually all of the material can be utilized to rebuild roads but the finer silt and sand are not exactly the best materials for supporting aquatic life thus the reconstruction process looks to be a win-win for trout and tourists.

The trail continues eastward along the lake with shoreline fishing available.  The lakes was recently restocked with nearly 30,000 thousand of small to medium sized rainbow trout that just might cooperate.  Stocking the Big Thompson River was not on the table as the Big T is home to a wild population of rainbows that takes care of reloading naturally and high flows did not allow electrofishing crews in the river quite yet to evaluate.

Besides the rainbows the most recent fishery survey completed last week (Lake Estes) revealed hundreds of large brown trout, brook trout, and yellow perch remain active within the stained waters.  White and longnose suckers dominated the catch but results were positive.

PikeNcolorado joined us as we pulled gillnets last week; unfortunately none of the 950 tiger muskies stocked in 2012 at 8.5 inches were surveyed however this is not an end all determinate.  More tigers are on the way soon with a plan to change the stocking strategy to hopefully improve survival.

Back to the river. Below Olympus Dam visitors will likely see additional elk along with the return to the Big Thompson River which held its ground in this section thanks to a river restoration project completed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife personnel in the mid 90’s.  Fishing in the river below Olympus Dam has been quite good as an angler I spoke with had caught and released more than 30 trout in a 2 hour excursion.  While recreational activities might appear as an afterthought in light of the damage the friendly residents in Estes were quick to remind me they continue to welcome visitors.  Countless hotels and restaurants were open for business and an overnight excursion will only serve to help a rebuilding economy.  

Go Fish Estes!
Rainbow trout boat stocked into Lake Estes.
Stream cross section data is collected as road base materials are removed for sorting.
Blog content © Ben Swigle
Member comments
team FMFO , CO   10/9/2013 11:17:38 AM
Very good read and info on our town ! Thanks.:-)
Fishful Thinker, CO   10/9/2013 12:09:53 PM
Excellent info, Thanks Ben! CL
Coyute, CO   10/9/2013 12:59:55 PM
More Swigs blogs please. :)
pikeNcolorado, CO   10/9/2013 1:02:44 PM
It was indeed a sucker fest. For some reason I keep coming back for more. Bring on the Muskies. Thanks Ben for the kind words on the town and thanks for letting me give a slimey hand.
catfishking, CO   10/9/2013 4:13:57 PM
Nice just curious do you kill the suckers that get in the net and was the perch any size
Ajax5240, CO   10/9/2013 7:50:30 PM
Thanks for the update and good read. I can't wait to get back up there, I need my fix of the Jack Daniels ice cream from my favorite shop up there!! Wish I could just move up there!!
JKaboom, CO   10/9/2013 11:04:07 PM
It sounds like Estes Park is on the path to recovery. Thank you for the update :-)
NativeCuttie, CO   10/10/2013 8:31:34 AM
Definitely good to hear. I was thinking about heading up there this weekend.
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   10/13/2013 2:30:32 AM
Catfish. Killing the suckers would provide minimal moment success as the nets survey such a small percentage of all fish in the lake, about 0.20 percent. The trouble with stocking more predators in estes such as brown trout is problematic as a small number may escape into the river. Thus if we were to add more browns to the lake, the potential exists that they could offset rainbow numbers in the river below. The next option is a hybrid, such as tiger Muskie. Walleye have been stocked in the past with limited success as the cold temps preclude growth, the walleye in estes did not grow fast enough to keep up with consuming suckers. Estes will be sucker abundant but the tigers will eventually partially help. In the meantime 10 inch trout that are stocked will provide the bulk of the catching while rainbows at 5 inches, stocked, will grow into desirable size for harvest and angling satisfaction. A rebuild process but there are thousands of fish in the lake to attract anglers. More to come as my crew can electrofishing sections of the big t affected by the flood.
opencage, CO   11/8/2013 2:33:38 PM
With HWY 36 open to the public and free admission to Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend, Ben is spot on. You should be able to find spots to ice fish, open water fish, and river fish. Get up to Estes Park and go fishing!
Ben Swigle
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