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Tamera Manzanares

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Fish for free this weekend

If the rain stops, today and Sunday could be good opportunities to enjoy National Fishing Week.

To honor the occasion and encourage fishing, the Colorado Division of Wildlife will not be checking for fishing licenses this weekend.

That will be good news for children planning to attend Family Fun Day at Bear Lake, 10 miles southwest of Yampa.

The 15th annual event, sponsored by the DOW, the Yampa Ranger District and Wal-Mart, aims to help children 15 and younger with their fishing skills and knowledge while inspiring good fishing and environmental ethics.

“We’re trying to really focus on education, fun and how we can keep habitats clean and treat the land nice,” said Kathy Foster, fisheries biologist with the Yampa River Ranger District.

Activities will begin at 10 a.m. with six booths with information about aquatic habitats and insects, types of fish and angling methods. Volunteers also will be on hand to discuss bait, fly fishing and the importance of not littering.

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Children who visit all the booths will receive free fishing poles from the DOW. Children also may collect bobbers, bumper stickers, fish identification cards and other goodies, Foster said.

Children then can put their knowledge and skills to use fishing in Bear Lake.

“We do expect good fishing conditions,” Foster said. “The lake recently was stocked, so hopefully those fish are hungry.”

To get to Bear Lake, take Routt County Road 7 southwest of Yampa. Continue on the road, which turns into Forest Service Road 900, to Bear Lake Campground and Bear Lake.

In general, anglers likely will have the best luck fishing in lakes rather than rivers, which are running high because of rain, said Jim Haskins, DOW district wildlife manager.

Good options include Steamboat Lake, Stagecoach Reservoir and Yamcola and Stillwater reservoirs near Bear Lake. Most high-mountain lakes still are inaccessible, he said.

Another good bet are lower elevation ponds, such as Casey’s Pond and Fetcher Pond and ponds south of the Hayden Power Station on C.R. 27. The DOW has stocked those ponds.

Fishing should be good in streams through this weekend and then will taper off because of spawning, Haskins said.

While having fun, adults and children need to make sure to take safety precautions by wearing life vests on boats and staying clear of fast-running water.

“Right now, water temperatures are still cold,” he said. “People get in the water, they are going to get hypothermic real quick.”

After this weekend, the fine for fishing without a license is $68.

Licenses are $20.25 a year for residents and $40.25 for nonresidents. One-day and five-day licenses also are available and may be purchased at the U.S. Forest Service and DOW office at 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs.