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Matt Snider
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Poudre Fish Ladder

Blog by: Matt Snider 5/2/2019
This a win for the fish on the Cache La Poudre River upstream of Fort Collins, near Laporte, CO.  And it is a positive note in the relentless battle for water along the front range.  Regardless of how water rights effect fishing in the future, at least there is this project (and a few others like it that will come in the near future) that anglers can be happy about.

Before this new "fish ladder" was in place, any fish that found its way below the diversion - which spreads across the entire river - was not going to get back above it.  Countless fish wash over them in high water during runoff.  Several of these diversions exist along the Cache La Poudre River from the lower canyon section all the way into Fort Collins and down.  

The picture above shows the "ladder" - which actually looks more like a ramp or a maze.  Somehow they figure out there way through it and to the river above.

Yesterday the primary partners in bringing this project to fruition - Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Noosa Yogurt, Morning Fresh Dairy, Poudre River Heritage, and Northern Water - held a ribbon cutting ceremony and press conference.  CPW Aquatic Biologist Kyle Battige (in the hat above and below) headed up the CPW's fish science involvement with this project and began the meeting speaking at the podium.

I was told that 70 fish were tagged by CPW for a study after this fish passage was opened.  Most were trout, 66 rainbows and browns.  The other 4 were suckers.  Most were taken and tagged from the river while the others were stocked from the Watson Fish Hatchery.  All were planted below the structure.  As of this event, more than half had run through the "gauntlet" upstream and above the diversion.  Each tag gets read by sensors built into the walls of the fish ladder, and recorded by an onsite computer.  

The photograph below is taken from above the diversion looking down river.  This is where the fish will end up.  There are new stairways built into the banks now, both above and below the diversion.  This is a good way for boaters to go river right and exit the stream safely. 

We took a moment after the event to fish.  Went out with Colorado TU Rocky Mountain Flycasters chapter VP Colin Glover.  We didn't do very well.  My report is in the river page.   The river was heavily stained and picking up juice for runoff.  Asked about this, Battige boasted "all the fish are upstream now!" Which was a joke, but maybe not all that far from the truth.  The section above the diversion, about 50 yards upstream, to the next diversion is all private.  Let's hope that the structures improve the fishery for publicly-accessible sections.  Or better yet, develop public access to new sections of the river that currently flow through private land.  Man that opens a can of worms (pun just realized - remember don't litter and since I know you don't, please pick up after the other morons who do...or else our public access will decrease instead of increase). 

I want to take a quick moment to thank Ken Kehmeier who was at the table when all of the deals were being negotiated for this.  He retired a couple years ago from CPW to not much fanfare.  He put in many many years as a biologist and senior manager and wore numerous hats.  His thumbprint is on many positive projects and policy.  He told me that tied to this project is a commitment to provide an additional 19cfs of water through Fort Collins year-round during low-water periods.  I've seen the river at 3cfs recently mid-town, and even walked through stillwater puddles last summer in lower sections.  +19cfs will do wonders for the fishery.  I look forward to fishing and sipping beers with Ken more often and learning more about this stuff.  

This is a good summary from Battige about the project:  “Outside of the benefits to aquatic life, this project is important as it showcases the feasibility of fish passage at these large diversion structures and will hopefully further momentum for these types of projects. It also serves as an example of the collaboration and team effort from multiple entities that these large-scale conservation projects will have to have in order to be successful in today’s world.”

I'll part with a simple shot of the river a few hundred yards downstream.  I wonder if the fish in this little run know about what lies above?

Read this press release for more details and info from CPW...
Blog content © Matt Snider
Blog Comments
Hawaiian Punch, 5/2/2019 5:13:34 PM
It didn't take too long for the fish to learn the path,very cool idea and even cooler looking design.
RPG, 5/2/2019 6:03:38 PM
Interesting report. Thanks Matt
bron, 5/2/2019 6:30:42 PM
Thats really cool Matt! Proves fish arent stupid. I may have to drive up there just to check it out.
xavierk31, 5/2/2019 6:30:45 PM
Very cool story. And it's pretty cool that it didn't take all those fish that long to figure out the ladder system. They saw Matt coming with his fly rod and were like "we gotta get outta here, now!"
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