'Emergency fish salvage' calls on anglers to catch as many fish as they want at Crystal Creek Reservoir

Published: Apr. 19, 2019 at 8:47 PM MDT
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To perform dam maintenance and repair work, Colorado Springs Utilities is currently lowering the water level at Crystal Creek Reservoir on the north slope of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain (PPAM). The complete dam surface, including the foundation structures, must be exposed to ensure safety and make upgrades to meet modern-day standards of the dam, which was built in 1935. The draw-down of water is expected to continue through mid-summer of 2019.

Springs Utilities is collaborating with several agencies, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the U.S. Forest Service and PPAM, to protect the natural environment, including aquatic life, during this necessary project.

Due to the declining water levels, the reservoir cannot maintain a viable fishery through the 2019 fishing season. Rather than letting the fish die, CPW has ordered an emergency fish salvage operation at the reservoir effective May 1. The operation offers anyone holding a valid state fishing license a unique opportunity to catch and keep as many fish as they like. Anglers must use legal fishing methods, and the emergency salvage is only permitted at Crystal Creek Reservoir during PPAM posted hours of operation, weather permitting. The salvage will continue until the order is lifted, and CPW will issue a notice and post signs when the operation ends.

While the length of the dam repair project cannot be known until assessments are made to a dry dam surface, construction work is anticipated to occur through 2020 and the reservoir refilled in 2021. Draining the reservoir does not negatively affect Colorado Springs water supply, as the system allows for movement to other storage reservoirs. For more information and updates on the project, visit csu.org/Pages/nslopedammaintenance.aspx.

Crystal Creek Reservoir covers 136 surface acres, has 3.3 miles of shoreline and sits at 9,230 feet in elevation in the Pike National Forest. Located six miles from the Pikes Peak Gateway, it is one of three Springs Utilities reservoirs that store drinking water and are used for recreation in the North Slope Recreation Area.

The North Slope Recreation Area opens to visitors on May 1, and the reservoirs and recreation area is accessed via the Pikes Peak Highway toll road. The North Slope Recreation Area fee is $5 for ages 16 and older. For exact times and rates, visit the PPAM website at pikespeakcolorado.com.