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Short Stretch Of Yampa River Closed To Fishing Due To Critically Low Water Flow

(CBS4) -- Wildlife officials have declared an emergency fishing closure on a small, heavily fished portion of the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir. Anglers have been asked to protect the renowned population of fish by temporarily dropping their lines elsewhere.

The closed area, referred to as the Stagecoach Tailwaters, originates at the dam at Stagecoach State Park and extends downstream six-tenths of a mile to the lowermost park boundary, according to a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

The closure began Wednesday morning and will continue until further notice.

Water flows rates out of Stagecoach Reservoir are currently 20 percent of average and are expected to drop even lower.

"Unfortunately, flows are already low, but hot and dry summer months are still to come," said Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District (UYWCD) General Manager Andy Rossi. UYWCD owns and operated the Stagecoach Reservoir.

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Gail Hanley of Steamboat Springs took this photo on Oct. 10 at Stagecoach Reservoir.

Fish concentrate in pools during low water flows and competition for food increases, as described by CPW. Eliminating the added stress of recreation fishing encourages survival during this critical time.

"We are trying to be as proactive as possible to protect the outstanding catch-and-release fishery we have downstream of Stagecoach Reservoir," CPW Area Aquatic Biologist Bill Atkinson stated in the press release. "This stretch of the river receives a tremendous amount of fishing pressure, especially in the spring when other resources might not be as accessible. This emergency closure is an effort to protect the resource by giving the fish a bit of a reprieve as they can become quite stressed during these extreme low-flow conditions. This spring we have not witnessed a spike in flows, which can offer fish protection and allow them to recoup energy following the spring spawn season."

CPW stated fish populations affected by drought and low water flow conditions often require several years to recover.

Floating the Yampa in Steamboat June 6 2021-010
Yampa River, June 2021 (credit: Shannon Lukens)

Wes Fout of Steamboat Flyfisher said the closure is a minimal inconvenience since there are so many other fishing opportunities exist in the Tailwaters vicinity.

"It's the smallest fraction of public water that we have here," Fout told CBS4. "There's so many other places that are fishing great. It shouldn't deter anyone from coming to the Yampa Valley."

The Tailwaters are heralded for the supply of large rainbow trout, brown trout, and mountain whitefish.

Yampa Fishing Closure (rainbow trout from CPW)
Rainbow trout (credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

CPW said anyone caught fishing in the Tailwaters area during the closure will receive a citation.

Also, given the current conditions, additional closures of this area are possible this summer.

"We ask for the public's patience and cooperation," said Stagecoach State Park Manager Craig Preston. "It is very important that we do what we can to protect this unique fishery, not only for anglers, but for the communities that depend on the tourism these resources support."



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