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The temporary lifting of the bag and possession limits will last until Aug. 31. Eliminating bag and possession limits is authorized by the Division of Wildlife through an emergency fish salvage order. Anglers must hold a valid Colorado fishing license.
In late July or early August, the Division of Wildlife will begin a long-anticipated project to restore the native Colorado River cutthroat trout around Woods Lake, a popular fishing and camping spot in San Miguel County just off Forest Service Road 618. Due to habitat loss, water quality impacts and the introduction of non-native fish over many years, the Colorado River cutthroat has been eliminated from most rivers and streams in western Colorado. The species can now be found in only a small percentage of its historic range in Colorado and in the Rocky Mountain West.
"The Colorado River cutthroat has been petitioned for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act and we want to keep that from happening," said Dan Kowalski, aquatic biologist for the Division in Montrose. "Restoration projects like the one planned at Woods Lake are proven methods for returning our native fish to their previous habitat and prevent the need for future federal listing."
Eliminating non-native fish from Woods Lake and its tributaries is the first step of the cutthroat restoration project. Biologists will accomplish this phase of the project by applying Rotenone, a chemical that has been used for decades in fisheries management throughout North America. The chemical, derived from the root of a tropical plant, is fast-acting, works only on aquatic species and leaves no residue. Rotenone quickly degrades in the environment or can be manually neutralized by the application of an oxidizing agent. The lake is expected to be completely free of the chemical and suitable for fish less than a week after the treatment.
In the interim, the water level of the lake is being dropped to reduce the amount of chemical needed, and to ensure that all water is contained in the lake so that it won't affect the fishery downstream.
Native fish will be re-stocked once it is confirmed that all non-natives have been removed, probably this fall or the spring of 2012. The native fish population will build up in a few years, but anglers should have fish to catch as early as summer of 2012. Fish populations should increase to their previous levels in three to five years.
The Woods Lake area was chosen as one of the locations for reclamation work because it is isolated and the water is pristine. Other species of trout will not be able to naturally swim back into the reservoir or the tributaries.
"This is an outstanding area for the native cutthroat," Kowalski said. "There are only a few spots in western Colorado suitable for restoration. This will help give the cutthroat a long-term foothold in southwest Colorado."
Another cutthroat restoration project for southwest Colorado is planned for this summer in the upper Hermosa Creek drainage near Silverton.
Before the chemical treatment at Woods Lake begins, the Division is eliminating bag limits to afford licensed anglers the opportunity to take as many trout as they can. Anglers must still possess a 2011fishing license and can take fish only by legal means as defined in Colorado fishing regulations. Anglers can use hook and line, lures and bait. Netting, snagging, electric shocking, explosives, poisons, and use of bow and arrow or firearms are prohibited for the take of fish.
The Division of Wildlife has held meetings in the area to explain this project. Questions about the project can be addressed to Kowalski at (970)252-6017.
Many other waters that are easily accessible to anglers can be found in the Telluride area. For more information about the Division's cutthroat trout conservation work, please see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Research/Aquatic/CutthroatTrout/CutthroatTrout.htm.
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