Colorado flood changes fishing on Rocky Mountain rivers
Scott Willoughby, The Denver Post
After a sad, soggy week of flood and devastation in northern and northeast Colorado, the only certainty on the fishing front is that the fish are doing a lot better than the fishermen.
Flooding rivers that broached banks, inundated ponds and blown-out dams have changed the game for anglers along northern portions of the South Platte River drainage. Gushing tributaries such as the St. Vrain, Big Thompson, Little Thompson, Coal Creek and various stems of Boulder Creek are altered beyond recognition. But unlike many of those living along the river banks, the fish will still have a home when the water recedes. The neighborhood — and likely some of the neighbors — will just look a lot different.
"I don't think we're anticipating a big fish kill," said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the region. "It's a matter of what habitat is left when the rivers drop. There will be some pollution coming down the river, but those fish are pretty resilient, and the amount of water probably diluted it out, so it's not so toxic to fish. We'll just have to let the water drop and assess what we have left. After that, we can form a game plan and begin to prioritize our next move."
Among the immediate concerns for CPW fish managers will be the Bellvue-Watson Fish Hatchery along the Cache la Poudre River and Watson Lake State Wildlife Area. The Watson Lake Rearing Unit, which raises about 300,000 catchable trout every year, was inundated when the lake breached, Kehmeier said, and a water line was damaged.
"The river took over the lake and put all our raceways underwater," Kehmeier said. "So some fish left and other fish came into the area. We'll have to shut it down for a while, so there'll be a loss of fish production there."
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