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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Snow Storms Good News for Anglers


Recent snow showers have boosted local snowpack levels much higher than at this time last year. Yesterday the snowpack in the Roaring Fork Watershed registered 107 percent of normal. It’s good news for anglers who dealt with warm and dry conditions last year.

The latest “Fishing Report” on the Frying Pan Anglers website reads, “...this last week has put us in the best position all year, with the best water in the entire state.”

Owner Warwick Mowbray wrote that entry. He says recent storms paint a good picture for the upcoming fishing season.

"It’s helped in terms of the prospects of the season. The snowpack has increased quite dramatically up at Independence Pass, which is great for the Roaring Fork."

The snowpack that feeds the Frying Pan River has increased too. The Frying Pan, along with the Roaring Fork River, are what make Basalt an internationally known fly-fishing destination.

It’s an important sport for Colorado. In 2011, anglers spent $857 million in the state and supported more than 10,000 jobs. That's according to a report by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Sherman Hebien is a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He agrees the increased snowpack is positive for fishing.

"It is good news, and the reason for that is because in drought years, fish suffer, water temperatures go high and mortality is probably higher than we would like to see," Hebien says.

With little snow in the mountains last spring, the river’s water temperatures warmed up in the summer, which stressed the fish. The situation was dire in some parts of Colorado. So, the State implemented voluntary fishing closures.

This year is an improvement already. It’s shaping up to be an average year for snowpack. So, Hebien says summer will likely be a good time to go fishing.

"There’s likely to be an adaquete supply of water in the rivers. That means for people who like to drift fish or go out and raft on the rivers, or have whitewater experiences, there should be enough water to have that experience."

However, he says, if late spring and summer do not bring additional moisture, Autumn could see large draw-downs from reservoirs around the state, which could have a negative impact on the fish living there.

And, there’s a chance this spring could see a quick runoff due to dust storms that coat the snow and cause it to melt faster.

That’s something Warwick Mowbray at Frying Pan Anglers would like to avoid.

"If we get a lot of wind and dust, we could have a massive runoff quickly and that’s obviously not good in terms of just the quality of the river, it’ll bring a lot of material into the river," he says.

Typically the snowpack in Colorado’s high country peaks in mid-April. Last year, snowmelt was more than a month early. This year is still a question mark. Meanwhile, parts of Western Colorado continue to experience severe and extreme drought, despite the added moisture this month.

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