The Antero Reservoir in Colorado is emptying out because the city of Denver needs water, and the fish that call the reservoir home must either be moved or left to die.
"It's a crying shame that they're going to kill all of them," said Wayne Bartlow, a Buena Vista resident who has been fishing in the reservoir for years.
"They’re all going to lay here and die," said state resident Laurene Stewart, who called the reservoir the "best fishing hole in the sate of Colorado."
But the Colorado Division of Wildlife says most of Antero’s prized fish will survive the draining and make the move to the nearby Spinney and Elevenmile reservoirs unharmed.
"Denver Water is working with us closely to create the best scenario for getting as many of those fish as possible into Spinney or Elevenmile," DOW aquatic biologist Greg Gerlich said in a statement.
If the fish do not make the trip on their own, a DOW salvaging operation will be used to transport them to Elevenmile. If the transport process cannot be done without minimal pressure on the fish, DOW will ask Denver Water to release the water in high volume until the reservoir is empty. The high water flows should allow many of the fish to reach Spinney unharmed.
Denver built Antero decades ago to store water for use in times of drought, but the city allowed fisherman to use it.
Now, as Colorado experiences one of its worst droughts in history, the time has come to pull the plug on Antero. Soon it will be emptied into Cheeseman Reservoir, further downstream, which is Denver’s source of drinking water.
"We have two reasons for doing this," said Jane Earle of the Denver Water Department. "One is the drought, one is the fire."
One obstacle for the Denver Water Department is the after effect of the massive wildfire that hit the area around Cheeseman Reservoir earlier this summer. One of the big concerns is that flash flooding will push ash and soot into Denver’s water supply and overwhelm the water treatment facilities.
"We need to put water into Cheeseman to help mitigate the effects of that ash and sediment," Earle said.
But the folks who fish in the Antero don’t have much sympathy for Denver.
"I know that they built the lake, but to me it's everybody's water," Bartlow said. "I think it’s a crying shame that one city can do this to everybody else."
The 2,200-acre Antero has been drained several times over the past 20 years. DOW officials said that during several of the past drainings, the majority of the fish made the move to Spinney without a high mortality rate.
Denver’s point is that the water belongs to the city and they put it there in case there was ever a lack of rainy days. If the situation improves next year, they say they will begin to refill the reservoir and eventually restock the fish.