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Posted on: June 11, 2018

No-limits Bait Fishing Allowed at Cerro Reservoir Ahead of Dam Improvements


Montrose, CO – The time has come to replace a century-old drainpipe at the bottom of the Cerro Reservoir dam to bring the structure up to modern dam-safety standards. The project to replace the infrastructure will also include construction of fish habitat improvements while the reservoir is drained. The project is expected to take about two years to complete and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has implemented temporary, special fishing regulations for the reservoir in anticipation of the drawdown.
The City of Montrose owns and operates Cerro Reservoir located on the northern side of U.S. Highway 50 near Cerro Summit in Montrose County. The reservoir stores up to 675 acre-feet of water behind three homogenous, earthen embankments, situated across natural drainage paths on its eastern, western, and southern sides.

The reservoir provides emergency water storage for the Project 7 Water Authority and recreational trout fishing opportunities. The opening of the reservoir to public fishing occurred in 2017 through cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and designation of the reservoir as a state wildlife area.  The reservoir primarily contains tiger trout, some in excess of 24 inches.      

The outlet works for the dam consist of an 8-inch diameter pipeline running through the dam’s foundation below its western embankment. This pipe is located approximately 50-feet below the crest of the dam and dates back to the original dam construction in 1912. Recent evaluations of the outlet works have determined that the pipe is essentially at the end of its service life, is hydraulically undersized, and is in need of full replacement.

Reconstruction of the outlet will require draining of the reservoir and replacement of the pipe.  In order to allow the reservoir water to be re-used by downstream water users, the reservoir will be drained using a temporary siphon structure and pumps discharging into the Vernal Mesa Canal located along the toe of the western embankment. Drainage of the reservoir will occur in a controlled manner - between 6 and 12 inches per day - and extend through September 2018.

While the reservoir is being drained, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is issuing temporary special fishing regulations allowing the use of bait and suspending catch-and-release and bag limits to harvest fish in the reservoir. These regulations will expire on November 30, 2018.  However, fishing with a current Colorado fishing license is required.

The local state division of water resources and the state engineer’s office regulate safety aspects of the reservoir’s dams.

For questions related to the project call City of Montrose Engineer Scott Murphy at 970.901.1792 or reach him via email at:

For questions related to wildlife call Colorado Parks and Wildlife Montrose Field Office at 970.252.6000.

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