Tag: cold water fisheries

Surprise catch on the urban South Platte River brings new meaning to “brownlining”

Yesterday I took a run down to the South Platte River, just south of the Denver city limits. My good friend Jon Emert in tow, we were ostensibly seeking carp.

The South Platte River is considered a dirty place – people don’t expect to see fishermen there, particularly not fly-fishermen. Par for the course, we were repeatedly (and quite rudely) mocked by passing cyclists. Not just any cyclists, but seemingly die-hard professional racing types, at least according to appearance (denoted by their carbon fiber bikes, sponsor-laden jerseys, and Christmas dinner flab hanging over their ballet tights). If those loft-dwelling, latte-sipping, bluetooth-toting, faux-environmentalists only knew. Actually, some of us would rather they didn’t.

We spotted just two carp all afternoon. Yearlings, maybe ten inches each, scooting across the skinny water. Could the Water Quality Control Commission, who gracefully denied a petition to keep the cold water designation on this section of river, be right?

Unfortunately, there are now at least two [more] anglers that know for certain they’re absolutely wrong. The brown trout pictured here was caught January 10, 2010, on the urban section of the South Platte River, by Mr. Emert. Brown trout are unquestionably a cold water species. This particular brown trout was colorful, muscular, and completely un-scarred. Its fins were wholly intact, unlike the fish you occasionally see who have to fight hard for their meals. It seems clear to us that it had found a way to adapt to its surroundings (foul-mouthed cyclists notwithstanding), and with vigor.

The fish spent a minute or so in and out of the water, while we carefully removed the Rainey’s Carp Teaser it had engulfed deep and snapped a few photos. Not a drop of blood was shed, and upon release it shot back into the pool from whence it came like nothing had ever happened.

Maybe the DOW snuck in while we weren’t looking and stocked the river with a supply of five year old brown trout. But…I doubt it.

Cesspool worthy of nothing but warm-water scavengers? Blech.

Cold-water South Platte under attack

big-rainbow-in-downtown-denverThe South Platte River below Chatfield Reservoir is a viable fishery. Sure, it contains some sizable carp (a species which some believe are deserving of nothing but death), but this urban waterway is also home to smallmouth bass, walleye, and (even far downstream) trout.

More than 25 years ago the section of river from the reservoir to Bowels Avenue was designated a cold-water habitat. This label restricts toxic outflows into the water, and allows anglers to enjoy some good fishing not far from Denver. In addition, several local chapters of Trout Unlimited have made significant efforts to clean up the river, and the Denver Chapter puts on the South Platte Carp Slam to raise money for reconstructing parts of the river for trout. That could all change, and soon.

southplattechatfieldThis afternoon the Water Quality Control Commission will hear testimony to reclassify this up-and-coming trout fishery as “warm water.” This means discharge restrictions could loosen up. The trout that call the river home may wind up on a bench in Centennial Park, along with whatever other wildlife depends on this section for survival. And those anglers who’ve begun looking at the river for it’s carping challenges will probably think twice about it next time too. I know I will. Further, all the hard work (and money) that Trout Unlimited has put into the river will be for naught.

I’m late to the punch on this one, but if you have something to say about this matter there are hearings scheduled for 1pm and 5pm, today, at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, Colorado 80246-1530. I’ll be there, but there’s no need to worry – since this really is serious I’ll be dressed appropriately.

MG signing off (to prepare my testimony)