A fishery exists on the South Platte River through the Denver Metro area despite the non-natural flows and years of abuse as the city grew


Flyfishing for carp in the South Platte is not easy. Sight fishing for actively feeding carp takes a bit of skill, a little luck, clear water and a fundamental understanding of this species’ finicky behavior. Once thought of as only a trash fish, carp have developed a cult-like following on the South Platte, from Chatfield Reservoir to Commerce City. Carp are a challenging species, but the river they inhabit in Denver has problems like few others.

“The South Platte River from Chatfield downstream through the city of Denver and even beyond doesn’t always have adequate flows to provide optimum amounts of water for sport fish,” said Paul Winkle, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Even so, populations of fish are thriving. With every new trip to the water, the carp and other species caught by steadfast anglers are proof of the river’s potential as a healthy, sustainable fishery. One reason there is such belief in this section of the South Platte is because of the numbers produced each year at the carp tourney. In addition to the 16 carp landed by different teams (and numerous others that broke off light tippet or spit improperly set hooks), a number of trout also were caught and released, including a 22-inch rainbow…

In addition to a thriving carp population and pockets of healthy trout, anglers have reported increasing numbers of smallmouth bass. During this year’s carp slam, for the second year in a row, another frequently caught species was smallmouth bass. Smalleys can sustain higher water temperatures than other sport fish such as rainbows or browns, and they have a higher chance of survival and natural reproduction.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

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