Colorado Places “Voluntary Closure” Recommendation on Dolores River at Noon Daily

Due to extremely low flows and concerns about warm water temperatures, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking anglers to self-regulate their fishing activities. Effective immediately, CPW is placing a voluntary fishing closure on the Dolores River from noon through the remainder of the day.

This voluntary closure is in place for the section of the Dolores River from McPhee Reservoir down to Bradfield Bridge. The voluntary closure will remain in effect until further notice, with a possibility of an emergency closure to all fishing if conditions worsen. The river is located in Southwest Colorado, 16 miles north of Cortez.

“The Dolores River is a local favorite tailwater fishery with quality size brown and rainbow trout,” said Jim White, Durango area aquatic biologist. “We know that anglers care deeply about this fishery and we need their help to conserve this resource.”

Because of the ongoing drought, the river is flowing far less than the historic flows. Normally at this time of year flows from the outlet at McPhee Reservoir are about 70 cubic feet per second or more. For the last few weeks, flows have averaged about 10 cfs. Snowfall last winter was less than 83 percent of average in the Dolores River Basin.  Approximately 25% of the water supply is flowing into McPhee Reservoir this year and the river, along with irrigators, share the shortage which is anticipated to be around 90% less water than normal.  These are the primary reasons the river is running so low.

Water temperature is also a concern. At times temperature of the river has risen to 75 degrees, which is unhealthy for trout. The temperature of the river is highest from noon throughout the rest of the day. Water cools overnight, so fishing only during morning hours will help to minimize impacts to trout.

Many trout anglers practice catch and release. However, in these conditions, it is extremely stressful on fish when they are hooked and handled. They might look OK when they swim off quickly after they’re released, but they expend a lot of energy when caught and recovery is difficult in low, warm water. With less water, there is less habitat available to the fish and warming temperatures mean less oxygen available in the water. That can lead to increased trout mortality.

“This is the first time we’ve made this kind of voluntary-action request on the Dolores. It’s not something we like to do, but it’s the right thing to do and we hope anglers will join us in this conservation effort,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist.

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