Gunnison River Basin Recent News

Gold medal waters?

CPW reviewing whether to designate Taylor and Gunnison mainstem

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is considering the nomination of the Gunnison River mainstem and the Taylor River as Gold Medal Waters.

The agency gives streams, rivers and lakes the designation if they provide anglers with opportunities to catch trophy size trout. Colorado is home to more than 9,000 miles of trout streams, but only 322 miles are designated as Gold Medal Waters.

Some sections of the Gunnison River contain more fish per mile than any other river in the state, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The Gunnison River as it flows through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park already includes a section of Gold Medal Water. But the new designation for the river would add the confluence of the East and Taylor rivers near Almont and its path downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir.

To qualify as a Gold Medal Water, a section of river must produce a minimum of 12 “quality trout” per acre. A quality trout is any trout 14 inches or longer. The designated area must also produce 60 pounds of standing fish stock and be accessible to the public for fishing.

CPW Aquatic Biologist Dan Brauch said this isn’t the first time the agency has discussed the rivers’ nomination. Both the Gunnison and Taylor rivers are known as high quality fisheries.

“The fact that they meet the biological criteria isn’t a new thing. Both of these waters have met the standards since the 1990s. But just because they meet the standards doesn’t mean they are automatically considered,” he said.

Other considerations outside of fish population numbers include land and water ownership, recreational use, public access and scenic qualities.

“We’ve seen use increase on the Gunnison River and we want to be sure we continue to have quality opportunities on both of those waters,” Brauch said.

Willowfly Anglers Manager and Guide Patrick Blackdale has been fishing in Gunnison for eight years. The valley has already been discovered and gets busier each year, he said, and there is more to be gained from the designation than there is to be lost.

“Overall, we could gain more protection in the form of regulations such as a greater number of catch-and-release sections on the Taylor or on the Gunnison west of Hwy. 50,” Blackdale said.

It would benefit fisheries and infrastructure, he said. It could also fund things like updated signage at the access points on the river.

“If it brings in more tourists then that’s good for businesses and outfitters, and ours is certainly included,” Blackdale said. “Our fisheries do meet the criteria, and their official designation will help protect their resources. That’s a positive thing.”

Longtime professional guide Hunter Pierson is on the river 120 days each summer. Even though the wildlife commission has not officially designated the areas, he noticed a substantial decline in the size of their fish over the past five or six years from increased fishing pressure.

-Read Entire Article by Bella Biondini, Western State University student and The Gunnison Times intern-