With March nearly half way over, it's time to start looking forward to spring and summer, and the amazing fishing options these times of year have to offer. The winter of 2013/2014 has been tremendous, with ample snowfall across the state. While winter is certainly not over, it is fair to say that we are looking at a very healthy snowpack leading into our spring and summer fishing seasons. Currently we are at a Statewide Snowpack of 116% of the historical average, well above where we were this time last year (77%). With the exception of the Southwest part of Colorado, every river basin is currently sitting well over 100% of average. These are fantastic numbers to see, and they should do a lot to help bring us to healthy reservoir levels, in addition to ensuring a good flow of snowmelt feeding our rivers across the state.
Colorado snowpack as of 3/14/14. With ample snow in the highcountry, Colorado rivers should be running flush with snowmelt in the coming months.
Colorado snowpack in March 2013. Conditions were drastically different this time last year, and the outlook for the summer was much more grim.
The big question at this point is how will this plentiful snowpack influence your fishing options moving forward. I'll do my best to provide a clear picture as to what to expect over the next few months. Runoff typically begins in the beginning to mid-part of May, yet these time frames are highly dependent on spring weather. As we witnessed last year, spring snowfall is highly unpredictable, and the months of March, April and even May can produce significant snowstorms. While I am never one to wish for dry weather, a wet spring season could create an un-ideal scenario of excessive snowpack that will prolong our summer fishing season (very similar to what happened in 2011). Given our current snowpack, and the prediction that we have a normal spring snow cycle, we should see runoff last around 4-5 weeks with flows peaking in early June. This will make most freestone rivers (those that are unimpeded by reservoirs) unfishable from early to mid May to the middle or latter part of June.
Another thing to keep in mind is that because of the large snowpack, water managers are beginning to make room for summer flows in many reservoirs across the state. Green Mountain Reservoir for example is releasing over 700 cfs into the Lower Blue River currently to increase reservoir capacity, and I imagine we will see similar moves in other holding ponds moving forward. This will only improve fishing on tailwaters, but it does mean that you should always check river flows before heading out for a day on the water.
Also keep in mind that Freestone Rivers are fishing great right now, and should continue to do so until runoff begins to rear it’s ugly head. The Colorado, Roaring Fork, Arkansas and Gunnison are just a few examples of rivers that should remain in ideal condition for the next 4-6 weeks. Again, be sure to watch the river flows as unpredictable spring weather can easily change the viability of these rivers very quickly.