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A curmudgeon confronts conflicts on lakes

Blog by: Bill Prater 4/10/2021

Lately I’ve been thinking of my 73-year-old memory as a kind of flawed time machine. Everyone but a newborn recalls life before the covid-19 pandemic. But my recollection goes way, way back, to the 1950s: a time of two-holer outhouses, radio as our only social media, and total absence of the outboards, inboards, kayaks and paddleboards that contribute to so many conflicts in 2021. You know; back to the “Good Old Days.”

Back then, my only alternative to fishing from the bank was Grandpa’s homemade 8-foot pram. Trolling motor meant “sculling” with one arm, giving me a right forearm like Popeye’s. (Youngsters can Google the term) 

I admit, I relate to the bold, lone paddle boarder bobbing in the wake of a wake boat in the middle of a choppy lake like Horsetooth Reservoir. And I’ve been tempted more than once to try one of those amazing new fishing kayaks I see zipping back and forth every place I go. But I'm too darned old to start one more hobby, and plan to stick to my 20-year-old fishing boat and Fat Cat float tube. Neither goes very fast or far, and one small stroke will probably end my belly boating one of these days. But for now, the tube helps me escape to a dwindling number of ponds around northern Colorado that prohibit BOTH motorized traffic AND paddles. I just feel badly outnumbered, and kinda threatened.

You don’t have to be Mahatma Ghandi to look at this from other viewpoints. Larimer County Parks, Open Space and Trails is confirming with numbers what we’ve all seen with our eyes: In 2020 alone, both motorized boat inspections and paddle crafts at Horsetooth increased by 40 percent! Reckless and thoughtless behavior once done in relative seclusion can now annoy or even threaten the safety of dozens of other good people, including those who lack good fishing skills.

Unfortunately, on April Fool’s Day 2021, Larimer County lake managers really meant it when, as a “safety measure,” they banned all gas and electric motors from Horsetooth’s Satanka Cove, bequeathing the cove to the paddleboards and kayaks. That is one heavily used fishing hole, but also recently described in “Collegian” magazine as “Party Cove, also known as Satanka,” a great place to do (illegal) backflips off scenic sandstone cliffs. 

This time machine memory of mine brings back those long-lost thoughts about how cool it would be to fish from a kayak. But in the 1950s and ‘60s those little boats were expensive and notoriously unstable. You even had to master a rollover technique now considered offensive even to describe: the “Eskimo Roll.” Now some kayaks cost about the same as a belly boat, and kids barely out of diapers paddle them everywhere.

Truth to tell, until 2010 or so, you could fish Horsetooth for days without seeing

one of those now annoyingly effective kayak anglers. And Paddle boarders?

They were nowhere to be found, until the boards became cheap

and inflatable about the same time people were getting desperate to get out of their homes. 

A decade ago, I think I hurt the feelings of now-retired Fish Explorer columnist David Coulson, speaking at a Larimer County Fishing Expo about being one of the very first to fish deep, wind-blown Horsetooth from a spiffy new kayak.. I listened kinda skeptically, and afterward asked him:  “Do you REALLY get on Horsetooth in a KAYAK?” I have probably alienated a few other friends recently by sharing my feelings about the Satanka decision. Hopefully I’m just annoying, not alienating, good people with conflicting passions and motives about how to live their lives in the Great Outdoors.

I cynically worry that even if genius solutions are proposed to reduce congestion and conflict at the places I try to frequent, like Horsetooth, Carter, Boyd, Dowdy, North Michigan and the Lon Hagler and Boedecker State Wildlife Areas, they are unlikely to be adopted. Because no one seems to agree on a darned thing these days. The Loveland Fishing Club is nothing but affable, retired fishermen and women - and we can’t even agree on whether to eat our fish or practice catch and release. So now everyone wants consensus about reducing conflicts among diverse Horsetooth and other lake user groups? The only thing we seem to agree on is, we want everyone else to go away.

I am as perplexed as anyone about overcrowding and conflicts on and off the water, sympathetic to all well-intended people trying to mitigate the situation. We obviously have to be as nice as possible, and open to others’ passions and ideas. I just don’t know what the answer is; I just wish we could smile at each other a bit more, and share the water with as much good feeling as we can muster. At least it’s easier to hide your true feelings when you’re wearing a mask

Blog content © Bill Prater
Blog Comments
Barnacles, CO   4/11/2021 8:15:48 AM
I don't know the answer either, but being nice to each other & being open minded is a good start. I guess I'm part of the problem. I moved here from somewhere else more crowded. Every single person I've met here has been friendly to me. I'm thankful for that but also glad my old legs will still take me places that nobody wants to go. CPW does a pretty good job of trying to have something for everyone. I just wish they could make this wind stop blowing for a few days.
 
Walleye Guy, CO   4/11/2021 10:25:01 AM
Yup, the current weather is much more troublesome than someone paddling around on a lake.
 
Artsy, CO   4/12/2021 12:28:46 PM
How bout the state building a few more large reservoirs?? We have more than doubled our population in the last 15 years...We have more people than water... A couple more big (John Martin size) res' up north and a couple more down south would help a little??
 
Coyute, CO   4/13/2021 11:35:31 AM
good blog.
 
Wiley, CO   4/15/2021 9:40:01 AM
I agree with Artsy, however CO has not done a very good job protecting our water rights. Much of the runoff that feeds our reservoirs is claimed by other states. Mainly Kansas on the east side. Anyone remember Bonney res north of Burlington? They drained it a few years back to settle a political pissing match. That was the only real water recreation in that area of the state. Unfortunately it deprived Coloradans and Kansans alike. As far as sharing what we do have I think people need to be aware that your enjoyment of the water is just as important as the next guys. When a wake boarding boats wake comes by and nearly nearly sends me overboard my little 15ft boat as they jam out too music I don’t like, I try to remember to smile and wave.
 
FXA0, CO   4/15/2021 11:16:11 AM
"Confronts conflicts." Seems redundant, but I appreciate the alliteration. The best way to reduce crowding at the sparse Colorado mud holes is to do your part and stay home. :) Seriously, most people seem to be civil out there. But the few of you who act like they are about to have a heart attack out there for just about every little thing should really stay home. :)
 
Lund aka Dingo Man, CO   4/23/2021 4:53:37 PM
Bill, Liked your note. I too am long of tooth. I grew up in Denver and every wet spot west of town held trout and no people. But I have now given up stream fishing in Colorado. Too many selfish, inconsiderate, and boorish people. I can still get on a lake and away from these flawed "sportsmen", and I will be dead by the time the lakes will become overcome with these types. It doesn't have to be this way if people were more considerate and less selfish. It's now a siege mentality - get there first and horde the spot you have conquered. All that said, I am so grateful to have had so many years with wonderful fishing and solitude. I am sad for those people who tell me now that they want to start fly fishing, as it is now an ordeal. And friends of mine who started within the past 20 years are okay with all the dysfunction, as they just don't know any better.
 
NavySteve, CO   4/23/2021 9:14:42 PM
Bill, thanks for the post. I hear you and I feel you. I remember growing up as a boy, just wishing that I could get myself a killer bass boat one day. Guess what, I'm still wishing, but I do have self-propelled small craft. To be honest I have abandoned some of my favorite spots due to the boat traffic and disregard for safety. I only frequent lakes with large no-wake zones or that have a speed limit all together. Safety is important. I believe it is our duty as fisher(people) to petition our parks and rec leaders about this issue. Let us be heard and our concerns for safety. The more we voice our concern the more areas will have no-wake posted or will get speed limit restrictions. I am all for everyone having fun, but it needs to be done safely and there needs to be areas of use for everyone.
 
Bill Prater (fishthumpre), CO   4/24/2021 5:03:40 PM
Thanks for your comments, folks. Have to admit, I’ve been leaving my bass boat at home more and more because of crowding, and heading out in my float tube in search of a little solitude. Worse the weather, the more I’ve grown to like it.
 
BlastfromtheBass, CO   4/30/2021 7:56:53 PM
What about Rueter-Hess? Let all the skiing and partying happen somewhere else, keep Rueter-Hess protected, clean, and simple. Allow simple camping (no hookups). Campground bathrooms, water source, picnic areas, etc. Restrict boats to 15 hp. Trying to make one body of water serve everyone's special interests seems irrational.
 
setzdahook, CO   5/1/2021 6:37:23 PM
I think that the new crowd needs an education. The kayakers that just got a 200 dollar kayak at wallymart and proceed to paddle right over your indicator at Spinney clearly have no idea of boating etiquette... in their mad rush to be the hippest hippster on instagram. I often ask them if their kayak came with a Subaru....but seriously, being overrun in areas that you had to work to get to, (yes, even in a powerboat negotiating shallows and trying to be stealthy) I was shocked last summer. It was insanity. I thought it would slow down ut it has not... The whole situation is just so...kayak.
 
Trailerman, CO   5/1/2021 9:29:24 PM
I think the etiquette piece is the toughest part. As a land dweller 98% of the time, boating etiquette has been a challenge to learn. Luckily I have had good teachers. And as someone who who loves my kayak, I definitely have run afoul of a few boaters. Didn’t even know I was doing anything wrong until the profanities started flying. I was in the wrong but a little constructive criticism would have gone a long way. You guys are right that a lot of young people have no idea what they’re doing, but what we need are people to explain the ropes, not scream and yell. Old guys take a young person under your wing and young guys realize that the old guys have nothing but good advice for you. We can all learn from eachother. Even if it’s it us younger guys explaining social media.
 
Buff Jim, CO   5/25/2021 5:52:18 PM
Hey Bill Very well written. Best answer I think is to go on the days and times that others don't go. Simple but effective! JS, Greeley
 
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