Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Race to stop South Platte River contamination North of Denver

Three 2,500 gallon vacuum trucks are sucking up water and oily muck from Sand Creek north of downtown Denver, trying to keep more of the pollution from reaching the South Platte River.
"The biggest thing right now is to stop the flow of the material into the South Platte," said Curtis Kimbel, an Environmental Protection Agency emergency response manager overseeing the work.
Crews contracted by Suncor Energy, which has a refinery about a mile east of the confluence of Sand Creek and the South Platte, worked through the night setting up booms to pool the oily material before it reaches the river.
Water samples were taken today, and will be taken again tomorrow, to try to identify what the material is and where it's coming from Kimbel said.
Red crime-scene tape has been draped around a suspected source area, about a quarter mile up Sand Creek from where it spills into the South Platte directly across from the Denver Metro Wastewater Treatment plant.
Contractors also are dumping a white absorbent material they call "diapers" into the creek to soak up the oily gunk.
Kimbel said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been notified. State officials would be responsible for ordering the closure of any municipal or agricultural intake pipes downstream on the South Platte.
It is unclear how long the material has been leaking into the South Platte.
Link to full article from Denver Post below:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Coyote Encounters

Many communities in Colorado are seeing a spike in coyote populations along with alarming signs aggressive behavior. This year there have been a handful of attacks in Broomfield on humans as they walked through various sections of open space. Most of these attacks occurred while they were walking the family dog. Complaints from the public grew and the Division of Wildlife stepped in. The coyotes in the area were removed but everyone was quick to acknowledge the fact that a new pack of coyotes eventually would move in. Hopefully the new residents won’t show signs of similar aggressiveness. I have been fortunate not to have any coyote troubles when fishing but using a little extra caution just in case.

Few wild animals have capitalized on human’s suburban existence as well as the coyote. Larger than a fox, the coyote is able to muscle its way into prime habitat yet small enough to escape the attention of humans. Finding shelter within the hedgerows and culverts the coyote dines on everything from rodents to refuse. This wily canine will even make a meal of the neighborhood pets if given the chance.

At first glance canis latrans resembles your family pet and in many cases folks mistake this wild canine for the domestic variety. In some tragic examples children have made a similar misidentification and actively try to engage the coyote for play. Thankfully most of these instances result in the animal running away. Human injuries from coyotes are uncommon but result in painful rabies prevention. The Washington Department of Wildlife has a great list of precautions as well as other facts on their Living With Wildlife page (link listed below). The list has been summarized for easy reference.

Don’t leave small children unattended where coyotes are frequently seen or heard.

Never feed coyotes in your neighborhood or the wild.

Use coyote resistant trash receptacles and never give coyotes access to garbage.

Prevent access to fruit and compost, as scavengers such as coyotes and foxes will use this as a food source.

Feed dogs and cats indoors. Coyotes and foxes will use this also as a routine food source walking literally to your doorstep.

Don’t feed feral cats, as coyotes will prey on them as well. Sources of food attract the animals into the area and more food sources allow them to linger for long periods of time.

Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn as this is when predators hunt most often.

Modify the landscape around children’s play areas to remove possible hiding places for coyotes, foxes and other wild animals. 

Build a coyote-proof fence to help protect small pets, livestock such as chickens, domestic rabbits and others if coyotes frequent the area.

Photo Acknowledgement: These photos were taken in Littleton Colorado and sent to me via one of my super fantastic followers. These photos are not to be copied, re-posted or used for any reason. Contact me via e-mail for more details.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tasting T and fishing at the bottom of the cup.

The cup is not half full or half empty when you can see this much of the bottom. It is simply ‘almost empty’. A recent draw down has forced the fish and anglers to play in only a few inches of water. Serious anglers get seriously concerned when water levels drop like this and I am pretty sure the fish aren’t too crazy about it either. Some fish become skiddish in shallow water hunkering down in deeper pools. Injured or weakened fish may become even more stressed and die if the situation is prolonged. In these situations I move slow and throw a lot of slow moving creature patterns.
(Above: One of the rainbows picked up along the dogleg section. Grab a quick shot and let them go.)

Visiting traffic is as heavy here as it is just about anywhere and the holes are numbered similar to that of a golf course. You have the front and back nine along with a few dogleg left fairways. However the low water levels turn the entire stretch from a par 4 to a par 3 resembling something closer to miniature golf perhaps. Not being able to control the weather or the water levels I fish what is available. 

Starting at the top of the course I throw a few casts into the spillway plinking a tiny brown trout. Tee off at hole #2 and flub the landing on my first big fish of the day. The fish hit and held long enough for the head to come out of the water before doing a tail slap retreat as it spit the hook. It was a wide-bodied brown guestimated at 18-inches. Not the largest fish in Colorado but would have been quite respectable for the photo op on this day. I mumble a few short curses and sling a few casts before moving on.

Holes number 3, 4, 5 and 6 were very shallow with a few meager rocks. I passed these up and wrote bogey on my scorecard for each. Next up is a dogleg section with deeper water. Threw out a few casts and started getting into some real action again. The fish would follow or take a swipe about every other cast. Slicing the water into sections my fan casting would pick up a sturdy hit here and there. The result was a sturdy rainbow trout and a few average browns.
(Above: One handed brown trout and the average fish for the day. Too aggressive for it’s own good I removed my presentation and a micro-nymph setup broke off from another angler.)

Moving past the dogleg and onto a decent fairway stretch that cascaded not once but twice over sections of rock. First cast gets another plink from a standard brown and the second cast gets a soft bump off a submerged boulder.

“Phew.” I exclaim with relief. “Almost snagged it up there.”

Then a large orange flash comes from under the boulder and bumps the presentation ever so slightly. I could barely feel the tap on my line, which straightened less than half the slack out of the curve between us. The flash was orange like that of a goldfish and the size just seems to grow larger in my mind. Truly it was about the size of the first fish I lost but that is still a guess not getting a good view of the fish. Taking a deep breath I cast a few times and move on.
(Above: This is a decent shot of the front nine and the shallow fairway stretch. Wet ankle fishing.)

Towards the end of the stretch I am somewhere in the double digits of the fish count and my scorecard is marred with scribbles. Looking up at hole #18 and see it occupied by another angler. At this point I can wait my turn or scratch the hole altogether. The wind was starting to pick up and the course was getting more and more crowded. Maybe it was best to just pack it up and head home.

“Maybe I’ll hit the spillway one more time…”

Back at hole #1 I do a gear change switching from the short game to the long distance stuff. Kinda like dropping the irons for a solid 3 or 4 wood. A few decent follows and then a sturdy brown trout hits. The not too shabby battle led me to believe that this was a much larger fish. Once to the hand I shrug off any disappointment and appreciate the fish for giving 110%. The fish even goes easy for the photo op. Unfortunately my camera decides to lose it on the auto focus. 
(Above: Another blurred fish shot, which has plagued me this year. My solo trout shots are a gamble to say the least.)

Loading the gear back up I was satisfied that I had not put on the waders and still managed to land a few decent fish. This was not my best day but definitely wasn’t my worst. This time of year that means a lot.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photos from the field

Through my adventures photos are taken that never seem to make it into specific fish posts. So much of my fishing goes unseen or heard. Even though these pictures may not be ready for prime time fishing posts, I have found a way to fit them in an excerpt called “Photos from the field.”

What again?

(Above: I almost never see these things but this year they are all over the place or at least along one or two rivers on the west slope. Knowing this caterpillar turns into a dull looking moth and not a dragon or a whisker-tailed butterfly is kind of a downer.)

Tree of Scrag

(Above: Some living things are simply a product of their environment. Wind and open space can play havoc with tree limbs that are thin and easily whipped. This tree has endured many years with the wind sculpting the direction of each branch. Half dead, half alive it looks definitely twisted and the most scraggily tree that I have ever seen. )

A peek in the snow

(Above: This sporty buck was nibbling on some leaves when I showed up to take the picture. He looked at me right as the camera went click and then back to his leaf munching.)

Ice Road Trucking

(Above: Guess it’s that time of year again where on some days my daily work commute resembles an episode of “Ice Road Truckers” This is the beginning of the season and it is every bit as slick as it looks. On  these days slow and steady wins the race.”

Evil Bunny

(Above: There is a rabbit in my neighborhood that insists on loitering in a nearby parking lot and will even chase birds or rabbits off. No fear of humans it will generally scamper off only when annoyed. This rabbit may actually be an evil bunny of sorts with a bad habit of gnawing on brake lines.)

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Good luck and good fishing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little action on Snow Creek

It doesn’t take much of the cold white stuff to turn things that were all blue, bright and twinkly into cold, gray and more dangerous. Tall canyon walls shield a lot of this area from sunlight most of the day. This allows snow and ice to linger even after the sun has warmed or melted everything else. Once you got to the water things weren’t too terrible depending where you put your feet.

(Above: This is the straightest line of water in the stretch and has “cold and steep” written all over it. I poked a few casts at the two pools in the middle and left the rest for the “maybe on the way back” list.)

Water this thin is extremely challenging for the spin gear. On this trip I am relying on small creature patterns and the smaller sized minnow presentations. Really I should be looking for larger streams or rivers but desperation for a trout fix has been nagging my fishing elbow for a while now. I had to hit some kind of moving water even if it wasn’t the biggest stream in town. What I do like about this slip of water this time of year is that I practically have the stretch all to myself.

The species of fish are mostly a mix of brown trout and introduced cutbows. The hybrid strain looks really close to the native cutt and a few specimens are well worth the ankle twist on the way down. Rumors say there are brook trout here as well. This may be true even though I have never seen or caught one in this lower rock section.

(Above: Not too shabby cutbow for this thin water stretch. Slight deduction for the splotch near the center of the photo. Tiny piece of something on the lens.)

At first the endless landscape of rock and small pockets of water seem treacherously disappointing. Moving from one section to the other sometimes requires the three-point crawl just to get around. Picking a good line of travel helps a great deal along with checking your footholds first before putting on all of your weight. Snow will often blanket gaps in rocks and hide leg breakers just waiting to happen. After a few small fish and a few close calls a subtle serenity lowers itself over me. Small pathways seem to unveil themselves as my eyes slowly adjust to everything around me. The natural beauty starts to settle in. Every falling ripple, each boulder and pebble has a story to tell. In these moments I find myself sitting or standing quietly hoping to catch of whisper of their tales. This is also a good time to rub a sore knee or do that ankle check I told myself to do nearly an hour ago.

(Above: A quick shot of a few cascading pools. These may be smaller in scale than others but just as magical to me. If you lift up the riffle of water and peek below you just might see a fish.)

Several hours into the day and I have plinked a handful of small cutt-wannabe’s and two tiny browns. This is what I expect and darn thankful for the one respectable cutbow earlier on. Towards the end of the stretch I reach the last few hot pockets of water worth the spin gear stick and move. The next few yards are shallow with very few large rocks, bends or even an undercut bank to hit. Beyond that is the end of the public access line.

“Guess this is it.” I mumble to myself feeling twinges of pain in both ankles by now and one scuffed elbow. “Work this and head out.”

I plink two small browns and one cutty hybrid right off the bat with the fast spinny blade thing in lightweight fashion. Switch to the other rod with the small tube jig and a solid thump grabs it. For the next few minutes I had an actual fish fight on my hands with a stocky brown trout that had so few dots you could almost count them on your fingers and toes.  

(Above: What can I say here other than I am standing all wobbly in a not so stable spot. Just grab a pic and let the fish go.)

The big dot brown was the last fish of the day. For some reason I still hiked up to the property line before hiking back. There were only one or two sections that I didn’t cliff dive into and my legs were thanking me for that on the way back. These sections can be fairly gnarly factoring heavily into the give and take on how much water a body can cover within a certain amount of time. Had I not pulled out a few respectable fish already, these sections would have had a chance to really rough me up. Instead I was able to stumble out of the thin canyon with both legs and a whistle on my lips. The fishing jones was subdued…for now at least.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Mattsabasser Drive to Fish Tips: Just let them pass

Reaching some of the best fishing areas often requires a bit of driving. The journey to and from the fishing hole can be quite perilous. There may be a lot of fishing tips out there but few that offer advice intended to minimize trouble while traveling from Point A to Point B. I shall make an attempt to fill this void with “Driving to Fish-Tips”.

Just let them pass

Some humans insist on being ahead of everyone else. For some reason this hell bent for leather and always have to be first place crowd seems to be trying to get to the exact same spot as me virtually every time I leave the house. Even if I set the alarm clock for the early jump and drive a few miles over the posted limit there is always at least one led foot hotrod Roger riding my tailgate and flooding my rear view mirror with monster truck headlights. Doing the ol brake pedal tap\stop check only escalates the situation or worse results in an accident. In my years of fishing and driving the best solution I have found is to simply let that crazy pedal to metal driver pass by you.

Just in case a few readers have never heard of the courteous pullover move, it more or less goes something like this. Typically my eyes will start looking for a good pull over spot or move to the right lane when I see a motorist coming up the road around 100mph behind me. If no pull out area exists it may be viable to move as far right as possible, slow down and wave the speeding douche’ on by. The reward is peace of mind and the chance to take things a bit more leisurely rather than all white-knuckled or hotheaded on the way down.

A good fishing trip will always benefit from fewer problems. Hopefully these Drive to Fish Tips help anglers reach the water and return home to fish once again. Good luck and good fishing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

COGO and what you should know

There is a rush to drill in Colorado and oil\gas exploration has been a large part of this state’s economic development for some time. Let me state for the record that I am for domestic and energy exploration. However I am adamantly opposed to mineral and oil exploration occurring near active fish habitats. Unfortunately anglers have the smallest voice in this discussion.

It is my experience that when drilling occurs near water, the water gets $%^& up. This doesn’t happen all of the time but it happens far more than the energy crowd or even Hickenlooper likes to admit. Just talk to the folks in Ft. Lupton and other areas in Colorado where the aftermath is so bad that you can literally light your tap water on fire. Health regulators deem the water safe but refuse to drink it themselves. Incidents of contamination are piling up and in nearly all of these cases the companies deny responsibility as much as possible and walk away as soon as regulatory agencies give the green light. For years now I have read articles where residents, property owners and even anglers are left with stinky, milky looking water and told, “As good as it was and perfectly safe.”

Ask anyone in the business this question, “Has there been evidence of contaminated water in Colorado where drilling\fracking has taken place?” The answer is yes. “How often does this happen?” The answer you will get is this: “We are working on developing better regulations and have some of the toughest standards in the nation.” Look at COGO’s own statistics before approving and more importantly signing a piece of paper that allows drilling near fish habitat.

If you have a minute, please take a look at the information being posted on the COGO website (link listed above). Especially go to the homepage, then database and select the Inspection\Incident report. Spills and contamination are fairly common according to their own information.

The worst part is that while permits are being granted, the regulators and oil companies are getting more or less a free pass. Bruce Finley has done a great job of streamlining the incidents and fines associated with the companies that work in Colorado using the database described above. This provides a perspective based on numbers that may cause a few people to think twice about allowing oil exploration in areas of South Park and others where some of the state’s best fishing may be in jeopardy.

Drilling spills rise in Colorado, but fines rare

PLATTEVILLE — Colorado's wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days — releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.
At least some environmental damage from the oil-and-gas boom is inevitable, industry leaders and state regulators say, with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.

But a Denver Post analysis finds state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills.

This year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has imposed fines for five spills that happened three or more years ago. The total penalties: $531,350.

Sorting out the numbers

The companies responsible for the most spills wield clout. For example, state records show Anadarko has contributed $43,450 since July 2010 to Colorado political groups and candidates, including $1,050 to John Hickenlooper's gubernatorial campaign. Other companies do likewise.

An analysis of spill data reported to COGCC regulators, and spill reports compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, found the following:

• Of the 343 spills reported this year through Sept. 2, Kerr-McGee had 38, Noble Energy had 37, and Williams Production and EnCana Oil and Gas each had 36. Next closest were Chevron and Petroleum Development Corp. with 29 each, followed by Pioneer Natural Resources with 22 and British Petroleum America with eight.
Noble, EnCana, Williams, Kerr-McGee and BP on Aug. 3 received COGCC awards — despite 374 spills among them since January 2010.

• Colorado groundwater was contaminated in 58 spills this year. Streams were contaminated 18 times. Spilled substances overflowed berms designed to contain spills 204 times.

• Among the spills reported to state health officials this year, about 54 were related to oil and gas operations and released about 2.1 million gallons of "produced water" extracted during drilling, along with gas and fracking fluids, diesel fuel, oil and other chemicals.

• Among spills reported by companies to COGCC regulators, the most occurred in Weld County, 114, followed by 55 in Garfield County, 34 in Las Animas County, 30 in Rio Blanco County and 12 in La Plata County.

• Since March 2007, Coloradans have submitted 1,000 complaints to state regulators asking for enforcement against companies.

• The COGCC has 15 inspectors who are charged with overseeing 45,793 wells. COGCC supervisors say 17,075 field inspections were done in 2010, up 71 percent from 9,991 inspections in 2009.

• COGCC enforcers scrambled this year to reduce a backlog of cases and say they're nearly ready to handle this year's spills.

Wildlife and Natural Areas have little defense over people with money. The bad economy has all but washed away human’s concern over clean and air water versus jobs. Both are in precious short supply right now and an empty belly is difficult to argue with. The short sightedness of this problem will result in oil today with polluted water tomorrow. Areas of the state are already dealing with problems over contaminated wells and streams.

It may also be helpful to visit the COGCC website, select database and then view the inspection\incident page. Select the “spill\release” radial button (maximize the number of records to 1,000 for longer listings) and look at the frequency of contaminations to ground and surface water.

End article released from the Denver Post by Bruce Finley.

The process of fracking is a different subject altogether. Know that I don’t support this process for many reasons. Lawsuits over poor cleanup, leftover chemicals and possibly even seismic activity are coming to light and I have posted links to those situations below.

Drill baby drill…just stay away from the water. Good luck and good fishing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hello Bucket

This year is whipping past me like ski traffic on I-70. It seems like only yesterday that I was complaining about summer heat and here we are now dancing between snowstorms. The window of fall bass fishing is closing and targeting the warm weather trends has helped me make the most of the dwindling warm water season.

(Above: My solo shots have seriously taken a turn for the worst. Steep terrain doesn’t help things. Constantly a work in progress.)

Fish are cold-blooded creatures and warm water fish such as bass and sunfish have had to adapt to these high altitude environments further north. Even in the winter months you can find warm water fish feeding but it looks and feels like everything is going in slow motion. Big bass will generally reduce movement as water temperatures drop but those two or even three-day warm spells can spark a hungry bass from its slumber. The action isn’t great but its there. Sometimes.  

Getting the lure as close to the fish as possible also helps greatly in the colder water temps. Bass will rarely spend precious energy chasing food this time of year. They more or less try to hibernate near a food source and ambush whatever happens to come by. Even during the warm spells these fish won’t move too far off their wintering areas. This means the spinnerbaits have to practically flutter in the water as slow as possible even bouncing off the bottom most of the time. Texas or Carolina rigged plastics are also a good choice for castability slow presentation. A 4” salamander (watermelon seed) rigged Carolina style with an 1\8oz weight was what I was running for the day. (Started with the plastic tube and then went to the salamander. The lure would be cast out and allowed to sink to the bottom. Then the retrieval would begin that was so slow it tested my patience and was excruciating at times.

(Above: Same fish, different angle. There was snow here just a day or two ago.)

In smaller ponds I will target the deepest areas of water that can be reached with the shore cast. It is even better when those deep areas are at the base of an earthen dam or contains submerged structure points. These points are easier to cover with more precision than a simple blind cast. These structure points are the most consistent during the hottest times of the year as well. Some structure areas you hit every time you are there because it is the best real estate period. This time of year I hit those spots with slow presentations and a lot of patience. 

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.