Kids. Calling all kids! You’re busy with school and sports and activities. There is so much to do. Yet, I’m betting that more than a few of you will make plans to come out to Chipeta Lake this Saturday, May 15, for the Rotary Kids Fishing Day.

This annual event sponsored by the Montrose Rotary Club brings out the families for a day of free fishing at Chipeta Lake, south of town near the Ute Indian Museum. The lake will be stocked with catchable size trout.

Chipeta Lake, now one larger lake, used to be Chipeta Lakes, consisting of three separate ponds. Decades ago, a high-water year brought so much water down the adjacent Uncompahgre River that it washed out the dike that borders the lake and the river. With the dike gone, the lakes drained to the river.

A community effort, led by the Gunnison Gorge Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited, raised money and in-kind donations of heavy equipment to rebuild the exterior river dike and remove the interior dikes that separated the area into the three ponds, making it one larger lake. Grant money from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife completed the project.

Chipeta Lake was for decades a state wildlife area owned by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A few years ago, the City of Montrose took ownership of the property as a city park in an exchange with CPW, which took ownership of the previously city-owned property at Cerro Summit, including the reservoir at the top of the hill. The Cerro reservoir has historically been closed to the public but is now public.

Members of Rotary, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Gunnison Gorge Anglers will be on hand at Saturday’s fishing derby to provide youth with instruction for those who may need some assistance with casting, hooking, and landing a fish.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife provides kid’s spinning rod and reel outfits. Kids get to keep their fishing setup. These are available free while supplies last. Setups include bait and floats and hooks and other assorted tackle. This annual event can get a little crowded. After all, who could turn down a day of free fishing on a freshly stocked lake with all equipment provided?

In addition to the catchable trout, the CPW usually sprinkles in a few large trout. And by large, I’m talking a fish that will be measured in pounds rather than inches. In years past, when someone latches onto one of these “pounders”, all attention moves to the kid trying to land the big one. Some fish get away, but a few get landed after much splashing and whooping and generally wild confusion. Although this is not a contest with prizes, just landing one of those big ones is prize enough.

Rotary members share in the fun, helping the kids who may have never fished before, knowing that they’ve helped them get outside, learn about the outdoors, and have an experience they might not otherwise have the chance.

The free fishing day is open to youths age 15 and under. Anyone 16 and older needs to possess a Colorado fishing license. That includes parents if they intend to fish. The day will start at 9 a.m. To get things started, kids form a line to receive their rod and reel setup, get a small cup with worms, then head out to find a spot along the lakeshore.

Volunteers will walk along the lake, assisting with casting, baiting the hook, or whatever else may be needed such as undoing the dreaded tangled line. Kids are also schooled in fish habitat, taking care of our environment, fishing ethics, and fishing regulations.

Judging from past response to this event, if the weather is good, expect a large turnout. For parents, sometimes the parking around the lake can be challenging, so expect to walk a short distance with the kids in tow. Whether you come in the morning or in the afternoon makes no difference, but what does make a lifelong difference is the experience for the kids. Bring ‘em out and have some fun!

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