Years of consideration and conservation work all led to a golden moment for two pristine rivers in central Colorado.
During its meeting Jan. 18 in Colorado Springs, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission welcomed the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers as the newest Gold Medal trout fisheries in the state. CPW's Gold Medal Program showcases the most elite fisheries throughout the state.
The stretches nominated and approved include 20 miles of the Taylor River below Taylor Park Reservoir and 12.5 miles of the Gunnison River starting west of the town of Gunnison at Twin Bridges extending up to the town of Almont.
"I'm pretty excited to be able to announce these two waters into our Gold Medal Program," said CPW Assistant Aquatic Section Manager Josh Nehring. "It's an achievement that came about by a lot of work by a lot of people over a number of decades. It's amazing to see the quality of fisheries that we have here."
Watch video The Gunnison and Taylor Rivers gain Gold Medal designation: [log in for link]
Fisheries in Colorado may be designated by CPW as "Gold Medal" if they meet two qualifying criteria. The standard is 60 pounds of fish per acre along with at least 12 quality trout of 14 inches or greater per acre.
With the addition of the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers, Colorado now boasts 19 Gold Medal sections on 13 rivers that total roughly 362 miles. The state also has three lakes that have earned Gold Medal designation.
While the Gunnison and Taylor are newly-designated Gold Medal streams, CPW aquatic biologists believe the rivers have produced Gold Medal quality trout fishing since the 1990s.
CPW Aquatic Biologist Dan Brauch said that while the rivers had met the biological criteria for designation for decades, it was important to ensure the streams provided long-lasting fish habitat for all life stages of trout.
"Significant work went into maintaining conditions on the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers to allow those fisheries to continue to persist," Brauch said. "We have sampled the rivers quite a few times in the last 10 years, and we continued to see good numbers of quality-size trout and abundant trout.
"The Gunnison and Taylor Rivers really represent a successful conservation story with lots of partners that have made this fishery what it is today."
CPW surveys streams regularly through the process of electrofishing. Fish are collected, weighed, measured and returned to the water. Data collected through these surveys provides invaluable data for CPW to assess the health of a fishery and to determine waters worthy of Gold Medal nomination.
"It does take quite a bit of work to get fisheries to this standpoint," said Nehring, who grew up in neighboring Montrose and has enjoyed fishing the two rivers since he was a child. "Just the habitat that goes into it, the monitoring of the fisheries, making sure our regulations are appropriate and we aren't getting too many fish harvested. There are a lot of things that go into making sure the system is healthy."
Brauch and Nehring thanked a multitude of public and private partners that have come together throughout time to support the Gunnison and Taylor fisheries as work has been done to improve and protect trout habitat through the Gold Medal stretches.
While celebrating the conservation success story that has led to Gold Medal status for the rivers, CPW Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond encouraged anglers to help protect these resources for generations to come.
"It's extremely important right now for all water users and conservation-minded people, including anglers, to view these incredible resources through a stewardship lens," Diamond said. "And I strongly encourage all of us to evaluate how we can contribute to the long-term conservation of these waters and how we fit in as stewards of the land and river resources.
"The Gold Medal designation is certainly something we are locally proud of. The Gunnison Valley has always been very supportive of wildlife conservation values, and we hope to continue that relationship moving forward."