Roaring Fork waters look as good as gold
There’s definitely something fishy about the stretch of the Roaring Fork River between Basalt and Carbondale.A study by the Colorado Division of Wildlife shows that stretch – between the Roaring Fork’s confluence with the Fryingpan River and its confluence with the Crystal River – far exceeds the criteria needed to be eligible as “gold medal” water.Gold medal is the wildlife division’s designation for lakes or streams where opportunities to catch trophy-sized trout are high.The 13-mile stretch of the Fryingpan River below Ruedi Reservoir already has the impressive designation. So does the Roaring Fork River from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs.Wildlife officers suspected that more of the Roaring Fork River would qualify so they “electrofished” the stretch between Basalt and Carbondale earlier this month to gauge the number and size of trout. An apparatus was used to temporarily shock the fish so they would come to the surface. They were then netted by wildlife officers, measured and weighed before they were released.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, according to wildlife division spokesman Randy Hampton. “As you can see, that easily meets the standard.”However, that doesn’t mean the stretch of the Roaring Fork will automatically qualify. “There’s a process and this is the start of the process,” said Hampton.The wildlife commission will take up the matter and probably vote on whether to grant the river gold medal status this winter.The fish survey also found that brown trout outnumbered rainbow trout by about a 6-to-1 margin.Alan Czenkusch, a DOW aquatic biologist, said he wasn’t surprised that the numbers were so impressive. “I had it in my mind that’s what we had, but it was pretty neat to see it unfold before your eyes,” he said of the fish count.If the Basalt-to-Carbondale stretch receives gold medal status, that would mean 42 continuous miles on two rivers would have the highest designation – from Ruedi down the Fryingpan to the Roaring Fork and all the way to Glenwood Springs. That would be the longest stretch of gold medal waters in Colorado, Czenkusch said.It would also bring additional attention to the area’s fishing, which has the benefit of attracting more tourists but the disadvantage of bringing crowds, he said.”Some people have said do you really have to do this – do you have to let the cat out of the bag?” Czenkusch said.This article was orignally published on Sept. 24, 2004. Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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