Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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CO: High water raises risks for anglers, boaters

DENVER – The Colorado Division of Wildlife is urging anglers to
take extra precautions on the water as rising temperatures and deep
snowpack make for dangerous runoff conditions in the state.

State flood engineers are predicting that streams and rivers in
northern Colorado could experience the highest water levels in 30
years, with the runoff season extending into early July. Flood
warnings have already been posted for numerous streams and rivers
in the northwest region and forecasters are warning that seasonably
high temperatures this week will cause flows to ramp up quickly on
both sides of the Continental Divide.

“This weekend, we expect the highest water so far this year,” said
Kevin Houck, a flood engineer with the Colorado Water Conservation
Board. “There may be a cooler period next week, but then it’s very
likely the water will go back up and we may see a second peak
that’s higher than the first.”

Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins of Steamboat said while stream
and river angling won’t be optimal, many anglers will tempt their
luck fishing streams that have spilled over their banks. With the
high water, the contours of even familiar streams and rivers may
not be recognizable, setting up the unwary anglers for an
unexpected dunking.

“I’ve seen guys wading into shallow water step right off the bank
of the stream not knowing it was there and be totally submerged,”
Haskins said. “In a year like this, it pays to be extra, extra

Once in the water, even fit anglers can be quickly overmatched by
the supercharged currents, cold water temperatures and submerged
debris like tree trunks and shifting boulders – all of which can
create life-threatening conditions.

Houck said that hydrologists predict Colorado River flows will peak
at about 50,000 cubic feet per second, about 50 percent higher than
last year.

Conditions are not likely to be as extreme in the southern part of
the state, where snowpack is near or slightly above average in the
Arkansas, San Juan and Dolores basins and right at average in the
Rio Grande drainage.

However to the north, snowpack in the South Platte basin, which
waters the Denver-metro area and northeastern Colorado, is at a
remarkable 323 percent of average for the date. Snowpack in the
Gunnison, Yampa and Colorado River basins – all popular with
anglers – ranges between 230 percent and 284 percent of average.
Statewide, Colorado’s snowpack sits at 247 percent of average for
the date.

Ken Kehmeier, the Northeast Region senior aquatic biologist said
that the long duration of the runoff may frustrate fly-fishermen
waiting for low, clear water, but flows like these are important to
the long-term health of trout streams.

“These sorts of years have the ability to reinvigorate the stream
channel by moving sediment, cleansing substrates, putting water and
sediment into riparian areas,” Kehmeier said. “From that
standpoint, these are great years to have. They’ll do good things
for fish in years to come.”

For more information on boating and water safety, please see:

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:


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