The weather in the southwest corner of the state has been spectacular. Clear skies, not too hot during the day, and cooling off nicely at night. But no rain in two months, and with the Animas River running so low everything feels like mid- to late-July, instead of just mid-June. Of course, we're all praying that things stay smoke-free.
BUCKETS: In my last post I mentioned "bucket biologists" and the negative effects illegal fish plants have on Colorado waters. One reader, Bobco, correctly pointed out that the agency formerly known as the Division of Wildlife put northern pike in some reservoirs in the northwest that escaped into the Yampa and Colorado rivers. So yes, this agency certainly takes its share of the blame.
QUESTIONS: I received a "stump the chump" question from Fishingfreek469. He asked if it is legal to keep a snapping turtle caught with hook-and-line. It took me awhile to find the answer; but the answer is yes, it's legal.
I've had a couple of folks ask me about conditions at some waters in the state. I'm happy to chase down the information, but please, tell me the general locationr. Let me know, at least, the county where the lake or creek is located. Other helpful information would be the region of the state, if it's near a metro area, the national forest location, etc. I had requests for information about Bear Creek Lake, Island Lake and Silver Lake. But there are numerous waters in the state with those names, so I don't know where to start looking. So, give me a better location and I can get you some answers.
WATCHING OUT FOR OTHER CRITTERS: A fellow FishExplorer blogger, Tiny Stevens, sent an e-mail and asked me to talk about what to do in case of encounters with terrestrial wildlife while fishing. He wrote: "Please tell us what to do it we encounter wildlife such as bears, mountain lions, elk, snakes, etc. when we are out and about on our lakes and reservoirs or in the hills. What are our best defenses? best precautions? Is there a phone number we should contact?"
Well, the primary answer is that you don't have much to worry about. If you're lucky you'll see some other critters, but attacks on people by wildlife are exceedingly rare. Mountain lions are most active from dawn to dusk and they're looking for critters on four legs -- racoons, deer, porcupines, etc. We appear awful strange to them -- we walk on two legs, make strange talking noises, wear bright clothes, swing our arms back and forth (casting), and sometimes have another animal (dog) at our side. If you see a lion and it is looking at you, make yourself look big, talk to it firmly of your desire that it go away, make yourself look big by putting you arms (or lawn char) over your head.Don't run, back away slowly if necessary. But few people even see mountain lions.
Black bears are timid creatures that don't like hanging around people -- unless there's food available. If you're camping or picnicking while fishing, don't leave food out when you're not around, don't leave trash out, lock the doors of your vehicle and don't leave fish guts on the shore or river bank. Bears have a very powerful sense of smell and if they smell food they'll go looking for it. Black bears are nothing like grizzlies which are more territorial and aggressive about defending their turf. If you see a black bear and you think it's getting too close, yell at it, throw rocks at it, make it feel uncomfortable. But if you do see one, consider yourself lucky and admire this magnificent creature.
It's possible to encounter snakes -- rattlers being the most problematic. But, again, encounters with snakes are infrequent. Be careful about putting your hands under rocks, under logs or into vegetation. If your hook is in a place where you have to reach for it, just take a look first. It's unlikely that a snake will be there, but caution doesn't hurt. Snakes are often found in wood piles and under logs -- the same places where small rodents like to hang out. And snakes find those little mammals tasty. Snakes don't look at humans as prey -- it would take them months to eat one of us!
If you see an elk, well, consider buying a 2nd or 3rd season over-the-counter bull tag for that unit!
If you find an animal behaving agressively or actiing unafraid of people, call the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office to report it. Giving the exact location is important.
But here's something to keep in mind: It's far more likely to be bitten by a dog than to have an encounter with wildlife. On average, more than 800,000 people in the U.S. seek medical treatment for dog bites every year. If I recall, three or four people were swatted by bears in Colorado last summer -- and all the bears had found inappropriate food sources nearby.
If you do have an interesting wildlife sighting while you're fishing, please let me know.
GOIN' Fishin': I'll be doing some fishing next week. I'll be driving over to Breckenridge for a wedding and plan to check out the Arkansas along the way. As I've said before, I do a lot more casting than catching, but if anyone has a spot they'd like to tell me about north of Salida I'd certainly appreciate it. Also, I'll be meeting up with some cousins from Michigan who have never fished here. So, I'd take any tips for Summit County streams; also wondering if anyone's fished Hayden Flats, a section on the upper Arkansas not too far from Leadville.