THE DOW WILL PRESENT its final draft of fishing regulations for the 2001-2005 seasons for the Commission to review at the Sept. 14-15 meeting in Dillon. Of interest to many anglers is the trout bag limit. In 1998 the Commission approved a 4/2 bag limit for the Western Slope; four trout in lakes and reservoirs, two trout in streams and rivers. They left the eight-fish bag limit on the Eastern Slope intact.
The DOW is now recommending a 4/8 bag and possession limit statewide (waters under special regulations would not be affected). At first glance it seems like the right thing to do. After all, they are growing and stocking fewer trout because of whirling disease. But is a bag limit reduction on the eastern slope really necessary?
Reducing the daily bag limit would have very little impact on harvest. The DOW’s own figures show that a majority of anglers catch no fish when they go, and most of the rest of us catch only one or two fish. A statewide four-fish bag limit would affect less than 5 percent of Colorado’s 740,000 fishermen. There would be a few more fish available for others to harvest, but so what? The same people who are catching none or one or two fish are still going to catch none, or one or two fish. Nothing will change for them. In addition, simply reducing bag limits will have almost no effect on Colorado’s trout population. Studies show that the 4/2 bag limit on the Western Slope has not improved trout fishing or trout survival.
Most of Colorado’s waters that have self-sustaining trout populations are under special regulations. They have reduced bag limits and terminal tackle restrictions and they would not be affected by this proposed change.
So why recommend a reduction? Because of the whirling disease controversy, the DOW is under tremendous pressure to do something, and reducing the bag limit sounds a lot like conservation to the uninformed.
But is that a good reason to make a change? I think not.
The only valid reason for a statewide 4/8 bag and possession limit is to make the regulations uniform. But in that case, it really wouldn’t matter whether the recommendation is 4/8 or 8/8. The results would be the same.
Public comment will be taken at this meeting and I hope everybody who has an opinion on the proposed regulations will address the Commission – for all the good it may do. I talk to many fishermen and the one thing I hear loud and clear is this: the DOW and the Commission do not listen to them. Or rather, they listen, but they ignore them. And to some extent I have to agree. I’ve been to enough public meetings, seen the frustration, lived with the results. This meeting will probably be no different.