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Low Snowpack & What it Means for Summer Fishing

February 4, 2010
Author: Trouts Staff

Today, The Denver Post reported that the snowpack in Colorado was at 86% of historical average.  This doesn’t really come as a surprise, for anybody whose been to the high country lately has witnessed a very obvious lack of snow for this time of year.  Although a dry winter like this doesn’t bode well for skiers, many anglers wonder what effect it will have on our summer fishing season?  Most people will draw a doom and gloom reaction to this news, making it seem like we’re in for another summer like 2002.  I would challenge that mindset and encourage everybody to look at our current situation from another stand point.

First, 86% snowpack for this time of year isn’t that bad.  When you look at a historical table of Colorado snowpacks dating back to 1968, you’ll see that there are many other years where the statewide snowpack was much lower in February than 86%.  For example, if you analyze historical February snowpack averages (see below) you’ll see that since 1968 there have been numerous years where the snowpack has been well below our current level.

graph

Second, let’s all remember that it’s only February, and two of the wettest months of the year (March and April) are still to come.  During the winter of 2003, Colorado had a snowpack of 71% in February, but thanks to a few large storms in March and April the snowpack by the end of April was at a respectable 94%.  So although it hasn’t been a very wet winter thus far, history has shown that there is still plenty of time for things to improve.   It’s also important to recognize that it isn’t just snowfall that provides us with water during the summer season.  Plentiful rainfall is imperative to any good water year, and consistent moisture in May, June, July and August with help provide us with full rivers, cold water, and happy trout.

Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, slightly below average snowpack will yield a lighter runoff, and more opportunities for all of us to get out on the water.  Consider the last two spring seasons when we had snowpack averages in March and April that were around or over 100%.  As a result of the abundance of snow, runnoff during both years was heavy and it lasted well into June.  Although conditions like that are great for whitewater boaters, they don’t do much for us fisherman.  So the way I see it, a little less snow this winter will yield a few more spring days on the water, which seems like a pretty good deal if you ask me.

So don’t let the doom and gloomers get you down.  Instead, pull your fishing gear out of the closet and get ready for a great spring fishing season!

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