Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hi there.

   Hi everyone. I am the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fisheries biologist responsible for managing the fish populations in Grand and Summit counties, Colorado - plus a little more on the downstream end. Everything that flows into the Colorado River down to State Bridge, minus the Piney River watershed, but including the Toponas country.
   Anyway, I have decided to start this blog as a method of interacting with my constituency. In the aquatic section of this agency, the traditional forum for public involvement has typically consisted of a meeting which we have called an "Anglers' Roundtable." My opinion is that the age of these meetings has come and gone. Don't get me wrong, there is still very much a place for face-to-face interaction, however our current technology allows for much more efficient means of communication. "Anglers' Roundtable" meetings are often attended by very few people. Sometimes not much that is constructive comes out of them.
   For the past couple of years, I have been participating in an ongoing bulletin board discussion on the website www.coloradofisherman.com. If you haven't checked that out, you should read up on that a little bit. It has been a huge success and definitely beneficial for everyone who has participated. However, I'm leaving that site and starting this instead. I've got a few reasons for that. My thread on that bulletin board has become the most-viewed item on that website, and yet I have no idea who owns or operates that site. I've never been contacted by anyone associated with that site. My assumption is that someone is attempting to make money from that website, and I don't have any particular reason to contribute to that.  The information that I am presenting has been paid for by the license-buying sportsmen of this state, and it doesn't seem quite right to put it out there using an outlet that is a for-profit enterprise. Another reason that I'm switching to this format is that it seems as if there are only a small handful of guys willing to interact with me on that thread, and they happen to be most interested in our kokanee and lake trout fisheries. That's not a problem, but my job is far more diverse than that. I certainly hope those guys come over to this blog and continue those conversations. However, I am hoping to pick up more folks interested in other aspects of our fisheries, and more representative of the full spectrum of our license holders. There will be a lot of kokanee and lake trout talk here, but after a while I get tired of talking in circles forever about just kokanee and lake trout, and I think folks get a little tired of reading about only that topic as well.
   I'm going to be learning this blogging thing as I go, so it's going to be a work in progress for a while. But my intention is to have good, detailed discussions through the comment sections. We can get as detailed as anyone wants to regarding the data that I collect and how I'm interpreting that data. I don't know the exact  requirements for a person to post on this blog, but I very much hope that folks will participate in that aspect of it. The public forum this will provide is the whole reason I'm doing this. I hope that folks post as who they actually are, because the practice of posting under a pseudonym is the biggest downfall of those other sites.
   I'll lay out a few ground rules to start off with. I'd like to keep the conversation somewhat limited to waters that I cover. Sometimes I can answer relatively simple questions about other waters around the state, but I don't typically examine the fine details of the management of those waters. Nothing that ever appears on this blog should ever be construed as me second-guessing or questioning the management of one of my counterparts in another part of the state. They know what they're doing there - I don't.
   So anyway, welcome aboard and I hope you stick with me on this new little adventure. 2013 is going to be a good year.
 


42 comments:

  1. I figured out how to change the comment settings, so that now hopefully anyone can comment.

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  2. Thank you! I look forward to seeing the information that will be presented and anticipate seeking some information myself.

    My first question for you is regarding Wolford Reservoir. Have you happened to have netted any pikeminnow?

    Thanks,
    FishSeal

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    1. FishSeal, no one has ever picked up any Colorado pikeminnow in Wolford Reservoir. Wolford does have a pretty large population of roundtail chub, and I have heard folks mistake one for the other in the past. Wolford is really interesting in that it is the only reservoir in the state with a population of roundtail chub. There are also flannelmouth sucker and bluehead sucker there. These are all native species that were presumably in Muddy Creek at the time Wolford was dammed. The reservoir pretty much marks the far upstream end of the range of these species, which continues downstream through the Grand Canyon and beyond. In the time that I've been around, roundtails have made up as much as 11% of the gillnet catch when I sample Wolford. You can get that information and a picture of a RTC if you follow this link: http://wildlife.state.co.us/SiteCollectionDocuments/DOW/Fishing/FisheryWaterSummaries/Summaries/Northwest/WolfordMountainReservoir.pdf

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    2. FishSeal - one other thing, I'm going to ask people to post using their real names on this blog. Thanks!

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  3. Did you see many elk in the high country this year?

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  4. I am also interested in seeing this in action. Nice idea. I heard the new net you were using for kokanee spawn worked well. I'd like to hear more about that.

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  5. Hi Jon, hope you and the family had a good holiday, let me know if you have time to get out on Granby this season. I had a recapture the other day on another blue tag from 1997 on a 20.5" Laker, amazing how slow some of them grow.

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    1. Thanks Steve, I'll definitely be hitting you up at some point to go chase some macs!

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  6. This is a great idea.

    I'd like to ask why no one saw the low flows on the Blue through Breck coming and didn't take steps to save the fish that are dying from the low/lack of flows through town.

    Of course Breck was going to take all of the water within their rights to make snow, like every year, and I'm OK with that. With the low snow pack this summer, did no one foresee the river drying up in sections like this article states? Could these fish have been shocked and transplanted to a holding pond for the winter? Perhaps since the river is stocked in town, having the fish die isn't a concern?

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    1. Rob, good questions. The answer to your first one is no, I didn't foresee the river going dry in that reach. In the six years I've been here, it's never been an issue in that spot. I've been much more accustomed to paying attention to whether or not the Snake in Keystone is going dry.
      So, I heard about this when Paige, the newspaper reporter, called me in the evening after a business owner had reported it to her. I was free the next morning so we went out and took a look. The flow levels when we got there were normal for this time of year. I saw one dead brown trout (8" or so) but the business owner who had made the report told me that there were more dead fish than that in the afternoon of the day before. I believe that's true, because the animals tend to clean that stuff up pretty quickly.
      Since the river was back up, I was thinking that this might have been a one-time occurrence having to do with some kind of disturbance upstream or a tributary having an ice dam issue or something like that. By the time the report made it to me, the damage was obviously done. If I would have known beforehand, of course we could have moved some fish upstream to those constructed pools next to the Riverwalk center.
      You're partially right in your speculation about the stocking taking place. We're not talking about the most-highly valued reach of the Blue River here. This wasn't even in the Steps section; it was upstream of that but downstream of the Riverwalk section. I've never seen anyone fishing there but that's not to say that no one does. You may be aware that the Blue through Breck is a totally constructed, artificial stream as it is. The only way there is even water in it at all is because the whole river bed through town has a liner underneath it to prevent the water from subbing out. The section that went dry is the first section immediately downstream of where the liner ends, as I understand it. I'm not telling you all this to devalue the resource that's there or the work that has been done; we just need to be realistic about what it is.

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    2. As far as the subject of bypass flows goes, 2012 was a very different year. We've seen multiple places where diverters are leaving the required bypass flows in the stream, however those bypass flows that have always been adequate in the past are not making it very far downstream. In my conversations with the local water commissioner, he's told me that he believes that the small alluvial aquifers in these mountain valleys are very depleted and therefore some of the low flows in these streams are going into the alluvium instead of staying in the channel. Good times.

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    3. Thanks for quick reply! I had a suspicion the whole river thru town was semi-artificial through the fishable sections. The stair steps are obviously man made, but I didn't know the area near tiger road access was too. I like where the river flows into a large pool area, too deep to wade, near Tiger as I have fished some hatches there for the little guys.

      Thanks for this blog.

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  7. Jon-

    This is a really great idea. I admire your fortitude in staying with the CF thread for all this time. I will never understand how you managed that. I could not have stayed above the fray.

    As to the notion that some people may have lost interest in the thread over time
    because of the heavy coldwater (kokes and lakers) emphasis, I can attest that you are correct, both for my part and from comments made to me by friends and acquaintances.

    Kokes are swell as laker kibble (and to keep my grandfather happy) but almost all of my friends would rather catch warmwater fish. I know that we skew towards the avid end of the spectrum, but we do not exist in a bubble.

    A variety of topics would be welcome. In particular, I am interested in the challenges facing the state going forward as Colorado confronts the changing climate, increasing population competing for limited resources, and the need to manage habitat for protected species. This last will surely provide fodder for many spirited discussions.

    I understand that you are not the appointed liaison between state government and anglers, but for many of us you occupy that role. Hopefully you will be able to make clear what the state has planned for Colorado resource management and what that will mean to the consumer.

    Cheers!

    Shaun Solomon

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    1. Shaun, thanks for the feedback. What you're looking for is a pretty tall order. I think these issues will come through in some of our discussions, but it's going to be in the context of management decisions for individual waters.
      This is one thing that people seem to have a bit of a misconception about. The guys advocating for pike seem to want to see some kind of an overarching statement from our agency stating how we're going to manage pike. All that would represent is political posturing. The reality is, at my level it doesn't make much sense to look at pike management on anything larger than a case-by-case basis. Everything depends on the situation in the individual water that we're talking about. That's where these conversations are going to take place.

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  8. Jon,

    Quick question....Can you explain the recent increase in the flows below Dillon Res?

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    1. I believe it's to pay back Green Mountain. Dillon typically owes Green Mountain water by this time of the year. They make a trade to keep levels in Dillon higher longer.

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    2. I was wrong about this in my reply above. The Shoshone call is on and the increase in releases was to satisfy that call. They usually use Williams Fork for that purpose but when the Colorado through Grand County is ice-bound, they can't increase releases out of Williams Fork. So they're making up for it out of Dillon.

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  9. Hey Jon,

    I know it is kind of early, but do you think you will be able to get any tiger trout for Grand county?

    Mark Bobier

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    1. Hi Mark. I did not put in any requests for tiger trout for this year. My reasoning for doing so is a little complicated. We have had very little success making tiger trout to date. The survival rate on the eggs is extremely low. All the requests for the whole state right now add up to 117,300 fish. If things go the way they have gone the last couple years, we will end up with a small fraction of that number available. When that happens, every request gets prorated, so if I requested 20,000 fish for a water, then I find out I'm actually getting 3,500. This results in stocking a number that is so low that no one will ever see one of those fish. Since all the biologists know that this will be the case, it leads to artificial inflation of stocking requests. Once we get the actual numbers, then some trading takes place among biologists. So if I know that I'm probably only going to get 1/5 of what I ask for, then if 20,000 is really the appropriate number, then I'm inclined to request 100,000. It's the worst part of our fish production system, and sometimes pits biologists against each other. My strategic choice is to not participate in the tiger trout fiasco, with the expectation that it builds some amount of "political" capital with my peers. In other words, at a later time I can say, "look, I didn't fight you guys at all for any of those tiger trout but I really feel strongly that I need these (insert a particular fish here)." We're all good friends and it doesn't get hostile by any means, but there is definitely a certain amount of negotiation that goes on.
      If more become available, at some point I would like to try tigers in Meadow Creek Res, to see what effect they would have on the stunted brook trout population there. Willow Creek Res. is the other place I've thought of. Do you have other ideas where they might be fun to try?

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    2. Jon..Lake Constantine along the fall creek trail near Mount of the Holy Cross. It is chock full of stunted brookies..A guy can catch a brookie on every cast...could be a pefect spot for Tiger trout. Also the Tuhare lakes could use some more cutts. A few very large fish are still in the two lakes...but very difficult to catch. The ones still there however are very large and healthy.

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    3. There is also absolutely no chance of any upstream migration into the Tuhare lakes.

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    4. Dave, thanks for the response, I forwarded them on to my counterpart out of Glenwood, Kendall Bakich. That's her area.

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  10. Hey Jon,

    This is a great answer that provides some insight into some of the "behind the scenes" aspects of fisheries management in Colorado. I would like to point out an underlying aspect here, that ANY stocked fish is a limited resource. Not only do we have to seek to balance this finite resource within the individual waters we manage, but also between fisheries across the state. We all do our best with what is available and this often means making trade offs that are only possible by working with our fellow biologists.

    This blog is a great idea and I am curious to see how it works. Kudos for putting in the time and effort to try this out. I often get questions from individuals who contact me directly and wish that my answer could be available for everyone to see. I hope you don't mind another biologist putting his two cents worth on your blog and hopefully I can add to instead of detract from your conversations.

    Kurt Davies
    Aquatic Biologist
    North Park and Poudre Drainage

    P.S. What do I owe you for not having to make tigers for you this year?

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    1. Hi Kurt and Jon,
      Thanks for putting in the time and effort by putting on this blog. This is awesome! I have a couple of questions for both of you... I know this is geared towards summit county but since Kurt chimed in I am hoping that he would read this as well.

      For both of you, I am a high school science teacher in Fort Collins and I also run a fly fishing club where we do a lot more than fly fish. I have taken my students out to collect and identify insects and the small fish that we collect but I would like to get them more involved like with some sampling either electroshocking,gills nets, or fish spawn. Is there a way that I could get some of these students involved with some of the work you guys do? If yes, how or who should I contact?

      For Jon, what is the status of the artic char that were put in dillon reservoir? I love to fly fish for unique fish and would love to catch one... are there enough in the lake to make this a worthwhile endeavor?

      For Kurt, I have a couple of questions regarding North Park. The first one is with the Delaney lakes. I appreciate the change in regulations that have occurred over the past years making the fishery an entirely better one. What are the chances that the North Lake could be an entirely catch and release lake? The reason why I ask is that this lake has our states brown trout brood stock in it as well as puts out some very nice trout. If this can't work as the demand for keeping fish is too high is there a way that large fish such as over 24" be released? Another option like what is used on Crane Prairie Res. in Oregon is all trout with adipose fin that are clipped can be kept. This would at least allow a certain part of the population to get large. When looking at the Master Angler pages there are a substancial number of kept fish that are from the north lake. I would hate for this lake to end up like antero. If you look at the number of master anglers that were caught in the years after it opened compared to now there are significantly less fish on the records. I know that there has been a partial winter kill but at 12" a year of growth there should be more caught if keeping fish did not have an impact.

      The second question for Kurt, is could brown trout make up more of a proportion of the population of fish at lake John? When looking at the surveys for N. Delaney suckers are very few.. unlike south/east Delaney and lake john. If brown trout were put in high numbers at john couldn't the potential for keeping the sucker population be there? Also, in the past... 30 years ago or so Lake John was a premier big brown trout lake with 10-15lb trout be produced.

      Thanks for both of your effort and time and I appreciate your thoughts.

      Bennett

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    2. Ha, Kurt I'll take some grayling instead :)

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    3. Bennett - We all do field trips with biology/science classes multiple times a year. It would be too far of a commute for you to come all the way up here, but get in touch with Kurt.

      As far as the char in Dillon go, they're there. We've been stocking them every year since 2008, but only around 20,000 fish because we have to buy the eggs for cash from private producers in Canada and they're expensive. I've never heard of anyone catching any in the open water but a small number of folks are getting them figured out through the ice, increasingly so over the past couple winters. We'll see a new state record turned in within the next couple years, guaranteed. As far as catching one on a fly rod goes, don't get your hopes up. I'm not sure that they'll ever leave relatively deep water habitat, but this is uncharted territory. Our hope is to get enough in there that they begin sustaining themselves, and who knows what that will look like if it happens. If you want to ice fish in 80 FOW with a fly rod just to be able to say you caught one, you could do that.

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    4. Thanks for the reply! Do these fish have seasonal movement like lake trout and salmon or are they totally fixed in the depths? Are their times during open water when the mysis would be near the top of the water column and the char would be migrating there as well? Thanks again.

      Bennett

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  11. Jim Ross (jross1535@gmail.com)January 8, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Hi Jon,
    Thanks for your efforts with this new forum.
    As a resident of Granby Ranch and an avid fly fisherman/outdoors man, I am naturally concerned about the health of The Fraser and The Upper Colorado. Could you comment on it and answer a few questions?
    1. Has The Fraser sustained healthy fish populations over the last five years or are they declining?
    2. Can you provide a fish/mile count for the Granby Ranch section or any section?
    3. Can you provide the same for the Colorado below Shadow Mountain Dam and Parshall Kemp Breeze areas?

    I have been receiving requests from TU to write our representatives on the water issues and have always done so. Is there anything else that we anglers can do to help preserve these valuable resources?

    Thanks for your comments,
    Jim Ross

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  12. Jim Ross (jross1535@gmail.com)January 8, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Jon,

    I forgot to ask if either The Fraser or The Upper Colorado at Kemp Breeze are stocked. If so, are they stocked with Browns or Rainbows or both?

    Thanks,
    Jim Ross

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    1. Jim, the answers to your questions are pretty involved.
      1. Depends on where you look. This question doesn't have one answer. Kaibab Park, in the town of Granby, fared poorly last year and numbers were down. That's just one example. There are counterexamples as well.
      2. We surveyed a reach that they called the "River Camp" at the mouth of the Fraser River in 2010. That's the only time I've surveyed in Granby Ranch because it's private and we don't actively manage fisheries on private land. Because it's private, I won't post the information here but you can email me at jon.ewert@state.co.us

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    2. As far as your other questions go, you should start by checking out my report on our website,

      www.wildlife.state.co.us

      under "Fishing", choose "Reports" and check out "Management Survey Summaries." I've got a report there on the Kemp-Breeze and some other stuff. I'll be updating it over the course of the next month with this past year's data. I'll also be doing one on the Fraser. A major purpose of these reports is to provide easily-accessible biological information for folks just like yourself, who are trying to stay engaged in the water projects.
      As far as anything else you can do, just do your best to stay engaged. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and these processes are moving forward at a glacial pace.

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    3. Here is the direct link, I couldn't get it to come up when I was writing this yesterday:

      http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Reports/FisherySurveySummaries/Pages/FisherySurveySummaries.aspx

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  13. John,

    Thanks for providing this information to me. I'll check out the report.

    Jim Ross

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  14. Hello John,

    Thank you for taking the time and doing your blogs. It would be great to get your thoughts and info about Dillon. Such a pretty and close palce to fish. When I was a kid, a fish from Dillon would always win the big fish contest at Garts. I learned how to flyfish at the ten mile inlet and still love to fish at Dillon and see its potential to bring alot to the local economy from people who enjoy fishing.
    I understand the value of the kokanne run in the lake, but why were Arctic Char intoduced vs. Lake Trout? From what I have discoverd the Char are eating the Mysis in the same depths that they do at Taylor. I like to use Taylor as an example of what kind of fishery Dillon could be and the mack population seems to be balanced at Taylor and it has Pike.
    Have you givin any more thoughts about Tiger Muskie in Dillon?
    Thanks again for doing the blogs and sharing info. Anything you can let us know about Dillon would be appreciatted.
    Randy Ford
    randyjford@hotmail.com

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    1. Randy - I'll do a whole post about Dillon in the near future, so we can get into it in more detail then. But for now, I'll answer your question about why arctic char instead of lake trout. There are a couple reasons. First, the list of waters within a 50-or-so-mile radius of Dillon includes Turquoise, Twin, Jefferson, Green Mountain, Williams Fork, Granby, and Grand. I may have missed one or two. Dillon is the only place that you can fish for arctic char. What I'm getting at is that there is a lot of value in providing a diversity of recreational opportunity. Every lake doesn't have to have the exact same assemblage of species as the one right next to it. Another reason is that the char are making good use of the mysis, and growing to large size (there are now state-record sized char in Dillon), while not putting predation pressure on the kokanee population. What would you expect the lake trout to eat in Dillon once they needed to make the transition to a vertebrate prey base? The kokanee are not that numerous, and if we had lake trout in Dillon, the kokanee would go away permanently and it would be another water that would need to be stocked if we wanted kokanee there. The lake trout would then have nothing to eat.
      On another note, this post that you made the comment on is pretty old now, and these comments are somewhat buried. I think it's best if we always commment on the most recent post, even if it doesn't deal with it directly. If you use this address:
      www.coloradoheadwatersfisheries.blogspot.com

      then you will always see the newest post at the top and you don't have to keep looking at this old one. Thanks for posting, and let's talk more about Dillon.

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    2. This is what I meant to say . . .

      First, the list of waters WHERE YOU CAN FISH FOR LAKE TROUT within a 50-or-so-mile radius of Dillon includes Turquoise, Twin, Jefferson, Green Mountain, Williams Fork, Granby, and Grand. I may have missed one or two.

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  15. Jon, Not here to argue about adding more Mackinaw to other lakes but in the example of Dillon Res. I agree that lakers would desimate the small Kokanee in that lake. You suggest that Lake Trout then be left with nothing to sustain the population. Although there is not a DPW survey on Dillon, isn't that lakes biomass made up of mostly suckers? Have your studies shown that lakers prey on suckers, trout, or salmon more?

    Thanks man. We all appreciate your insight and find this blog helpfull.

    Fishmanlee

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  16. Jon,

    I was curious whether there had been any discussion about reintroducing stoneflies to the Upper Colorado. Sounds like they had good success down on the Arkansas with reintroduction, and they used Colorado River stoneflies. I know the water regs may still not allow for survival, but even that would be an important finding at some level.

    I could arrange for some private landowners (downstream from Lake Granby) to have the reintroduction done on their property if that is easier to control and evaluate than doing it initially on public water.

    Brian Young
    brianyoungco@comcast.net

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  17. Nice post! Glad that you like their service. I believe that treating the customer so politely makes them so comfortable with your services. Anyway, thanks for sharing. Keep posting.

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  18. Jon, thank you for taking the time to do this blog. There is often a perception that those in a position of authority (or at least those with decision-making ability) do not care about the concerns of their constituency. I am glad to see that this is not the case here.

    This may already be posted elsewhere, but I have not seen it. When will the fishery meetings in March be held, and is there a set itinerary yet for the meetings? I would like to have the opportunity to do some reading and research on the bullet points before the meetings. Thank you very much.

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  19. So how would one communicate with you without the general public being in the conversation? I would like to talk about your "waters" one on one. Can that been done through this blog?

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  20. Hi Jon, I hope this finds you well, that you are still doing this blog and I hope also to get a response. About 6-7 years ago, my husband Joe and I were volunteering with the kokanee salmon spawning operation at Williams Fork, prior to our move to Austin TX. I seem to remember that operation starting toward the end of October. I have read some things online about Williams Fork water being low and no boating in 2013, but can't find any info for 2014. Joe & I happen to be in Colorado for a few weeks in October this year. We are wondering if the Kokanee spawning operation is happening this year at Williams Fork and if so, when?

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