‘Stress and release’ fishing could be result of low flows
State wildlife experts are concerned about the prospect of “stress and release” fishing on the water-starved rivers of western Colorado this summer.
Low flows in streams and rivers could produce higher water temperatures that tend to stress trout, according to Alan Czenkusch, an aquatic biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Low water flows force the fish to congregate in fewer areas and create more competition for food and habitat. Low flows and high temperatures also kill off some of their sources of food and make it more difficult for fish to pull oxygen from the water.
When the stress of getting caught, handled and released by a fisherman is mixed in, it could be a recipe for disaster. Czenkusch said he will be concerned if the water temperature climbs to 70 degrees and above this summer.
“You’re probably killing as many as you’re releasing at that point,” he said.
Brown trout are most susceptible to high water temperatures, followed by brook and rainbows, he said.
Czenkusch said a widespread fish disease that is a pathogen exists in nearly all waters. It affects them only when water temperatures and other factors combine to stress them.
There was a significant fish kill on the Eagle River in 1988 when the presence of heavy metals and higher temperatures associated with low flows created so much stress, Czenkusch said.
Another fish kill was close to hitting the Eagle River last summer until the monsoon weather pattern brought rain and lower temperatures on July 8.
Czenkusch said the Roaring Fork Valley’s rivers benefit from the release of water from Ruedi Reservoir. The release of stored water keeps the Fryingpan River cooler than it would be normally. The Fryingpan helps cool the Roaring Fork River downstream from their confluence in Basalt.
Still, warm temperatures could present a problem in some of the Gold Medal trout fishing waters of the Roaring Fork, he said.
The wildlife division plans to distribute printed information and a two-minute video to fishing shops and outfitting services to educate anglers about the potential harm the trout population is facing if Colorado’s drought continues.
A good rule of thumb, said Czenkusch, is that if you can fish a stream without cold-water waders, you probably shouldn’t.
Czenkusch and other wildlife division biologists will discuss fish diseases and numerous other issues in an “Angler Roundtable” in Glenwood Springs tonight. The agenda also includes trout stocking, and guide and outfitter use.
The public meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Roaring Fork School District RE-1 administrative offices at 1405 Grand Ave. in Glenwood Springs.
Czenkusch said plenty of time will be reserved for a question and answer session.
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Highway 82 is closed in both directions Wednesday morning after a multiple vehicle crash, according to a Pitkin County alert.