Colorado Parks and Wildlife begins Rifle Creek fish screen construction

Screen will protect native Colorado River species once complete

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“We are answering the call of our anglers who are seeking more warm water fishing opportunities, but also keeping in mind the concerns of our partners within the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.”

Lori Martin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist in the northwest region, about a Rifle Creek construction project aimed at preserving native fish species in the Colorado River.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in cooperation with other agencies, has started construction on a long-sought fish screen in Rifle Creek.

Rifle Creek is a tributary of the Colorado River.

It is fed by the Rifle Gap Reservoir located northeast of Rifle.

Once complete and operational in spring 2013 the screen will prevent non-native fish that have escaped from Rifle Gap Reservoir from traveling downstream to the Colorado River where they can harm native fish species, according to a Parks and Wildlife news release.

“This is a win-win project all the way around,” said Lori Martin, aquatic biologist for Parks and Wildlife’s northwest region, in the release. “We are protecting native fish populations downstream, while simultaneously having the opportunity to improve a combination cool, warm water fishery within Rifle Gap Reservoir.

“We are answering the call of our anglers who are seeking more warm water fishing opportunities, but also keeping in mind the concerns of our partners within the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.”

Joining Parks and Wildlife in the project are the Silt Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

A majority of the funding came from sportsmen dollars generated through the sales of hunting and fishing licenses, the release states.

The project is headed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a goal to recover four endangered fish species found only in the Upper Colorado River — the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, and the bonytail and humpback chubs.

The existing cool, warm water fishery of smallmouth bass and walleye in Rifle Gap Reservoir has been self-sustaining since the 1960s when the Colorado Division of Wildlife stocked both species, the release states.

Warm water fishing has become increasingly popular in western Colorado, but opportunities are limited due to threats non-native species pose to native fish.

Despite those concerns state wildlife officials continue to look for effective ways to satisfy angler’s requests for additional warm water fishing opportunities without compromising native fish recovery efforts.

“Coldwater fisheries in western Colorado are famous world-wide,” said Sherman Hebein, senior aquatic biologist for the northwest region, in the release. “But we also have a core of dedicated anglers that appreciate warm water alternatives and we are working hard to provide them as much opportunity as we are able, given some of the obstacle and limitations we must take into consideration.”

For more information about fishing in Colorado, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife web site.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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