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Credit: by Paul Goetz for the Mountain Mail
Orig. Article: http://www.themountainmail.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4&ArticleID=11539
Seven anglers walked the muddy shoreline of Clear Creek Reservoir Monday as they prepared to say goodbye to the lake for the season.
With one fishing day left, Pueblo Board of Water Works officials will close the reservoir Wednesday to begin work on the dam.
"I thought I would get one more trip out here before the reservoir closed," Bob Delnay of Salida, said.
He earlier caught four trout, "Two on hardware and two on bait."
The project, anticipated to cost from $210,000 to $220,000, includes replacing hydraulic lifts and gates.
Rick Sexton, reservoir caretaker, explained the reservoir poses no danger, but the water board is doing routine maintenance to ensure everything on the dam is working properly.
"The lifespan of seals, everything, is worn out. They are leaking more water than we would like," Sexton, said.
The normal pool at the reservoir is 9,200 acre feet. Monday the level was 3,300 acre feet. Water board personnel expect to reach conservation pool at 40 acre feet by Aug. 15.
Sexton said water will be released from Clear Creek Reservoir into the Arkansas River through Aug. 15. However, he explained this would not increase the cubic feet per second requirements of the river.
"When we make a drop (release water), we have to coordinate with the Bureau of Reclamation to keep the river at proper levels," Sexton explained. "We are limited to 50 cubic feet per second regarding how fast we can drain the reservoir."
Phyllis Whisner, a native of Buena Vista, and Irin Johnson, both of Clifton, caught three fish by 11 a.m. Monday. Two rainbows and a brown trout were fooled by a No. 18 Black Gnat.
Whisner and Johnson sat on camp chairs set upon a muddy beach. Both said they were in the area for a family reunion and "owed" some of their relatives a few trout.
The water level is about 30 feet down from a mineral white smudge running along boulders where water marked its usual level.
Mud and safety are the primary reasons the reservoir will be closed, Sexton said.
During the last draw down many anglers tried to drive out into the reservoir and got stuck in the mud, he said.
Another reason for closing the reservoir is that construction equipment will be in the reservoir and the water board and Colorado Division of Wildlife will be practicing safety first.
As for anglers, the reservoir is expected to reopen to ice fishing between mid-December and mid-January.
Greg Policky, division aquatic wildlife biologist, doesn't expect the draw down to have any significant effects.
"Some fish will probably move into the river. Last time, we had kokanee in the river," Policky said.
Sportsmen and anglers are concerned about another fish, tiger muskies.
Tiger muskies are a hybrid of northern pike and muskie, known for voracious appetites. Introduced in Colorado during the 1980s to biologically control suckers and carp, they also list trout on their menu.
"We could expect a tiger muskie to move down, but the Arkansas River is bad habitat for tiger muskies. They will probably move all the way down until they find suitable habitat."
Another concern is how fish species in the lake will rebound.
Wildlife officials did a fish species composition and abundance sampling about a month ago and will repeat the sample next year.
Policky said he doesn't believe there will be any problems based upon experience. After the reservoir was drained in August 1997, species composition and abundance was the same in May 1998.
"The last time (the reservoir was drained) we had very little loss. Most fish stayed in the reservoir" Policky said.
Wildlife officials don't expect winter kill will be a problem.
"We won't know until after ice off if there are issues," Policky said. "The fish community should look very similar afterward as it did before, but we will take a look and make adjustments, management-wise, to do any stocking we need."
The Colorado Division of Wildlife leases the reservoir from Pueblo Water Board for angler recreation and maintains a campground near the lake.
Jeremiah Cowman and his brother Matt, both of Woodland Park, fished the reservoir Monday.
"We're here with a big camping trip for our family," Jeremiah said, grinning, "The best camping (in Colorado) is right here."
Campgrounds will remain open during construction improvements, Jim Aragon, division area wildlife manager, said.
Clear Creek Reservoir was completed in 1909 for the Antero Canal Co. It was purchased by Pueblo Board of Water Works in 1955 for $2,700,000.
The dam is constructed of native dirt, rock and earthen materials and the reservoir level is fed by Clear Creek.
Last major construction on the dam was a $2,000,000 improvement project on the berm and emergency spillways in 1984.
The emergency spillways can manage 44,500 cubic feet per second. Engineers based that amount of water upon a 500 year maximum probable flood.