Roaring Fork gets gold | AspenTimes.com
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Roaring Fork gets gold

Janet Urquhart

The prime fishing on the Roaring Fork River below Basalt is no secret to the anglers standing in the shallows of every bend on pleasant spring days, but now it’s official.The Colorado Wildlife Commission last month declared the 13-mile stretch of the Fork between Basalt and Carbondale as “gold medal” water – the designation it gives to the state’s top fisheries.The Roaring Fork from Carbondale to its confluence with the Colorado River already held the designation, as did the Fryingpan River from Ruedi Reservoir to its confluence with the Fork in Basalt. Recognition of the middle section creates a 42-mile stretch of gold medal water.

“Now what we have is the longest continuous section of gold medal water in the state,” said Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.Currently, less than 200 miles of Colorado’s more than 9,000 miles of trout streams hold the designation, according to the DOW. The Wildlife Commission made the call at its meeting last month in Denver, but the DOW has held off on a formal announcement. The agency was waiting for warmer weather and an angler’s thoughts to turn to fishing, Hampton explained.Any warm day on the Fork or the Pan of late, though, indicates the fishing bug has taken hold. Local anglers are well aware of the newly anointed stretch’s potential.

“There’s enough fishing there to qualify it for gold medal, for sure,” said Art Rowell, shop manager at Fryingpan Anglers in Basalt.Wildlife officials confirmed the Fork’s gold medal qualifications last June by “electrofishing” the stretch between Basalt and Carbondale – temporarily shocking the fish so they would come to the surface, where they were then netted, measured and weighed before release.To qualify as gold medal water, a stream or lake must have 60 pounds of trout per surface acre and 12 trout of 14 inches or greater per acre.

The stretch of the Roaring Fork in question had 157 pounds per surface acre and 73 trout longer than 14 inches, but the qualification wasn’t automatic, Hampton said. The study began the process; the commission’s vote was the final step.The designation may bring added attention to the area’s fishing, benefiting the local tourism industry. But it could add to the crowds already attracted to area rivers.”I hate to bring attention to it,” Rowell admitted. “It’s already getting pounded.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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