Shagwa is located in west Red Feather Lakes, reachable by Hiawatha Highway. While it's one of our smaller lakes, it is also one of our better producing fisheries. It's our shallowest lake so we augment it with aeration, which is why it has open water year around. Not only is Shagwa an excellent fishery, it's also a favorite place for waterfowl and moose.
- Location - 40.8046 N, 105.6027 W
- Size - 9.3 surface acres
- Maximum depth - 12 feet
- Type of fishing - catch and release
- Boating - not permitted
Fishing - Shagwa is a prolific fishery that is one of our best producing lakes. It has a wonderful eco-system for plankton which supports all the bug hatches that happen during the course of the season. Due to its size and ability to host fly fishing, it's one of our two catch and release lakes. Presently Shagwa is only stocked with Donaldson rainbows (see photo), which are a variety of rainbows that are more expensive but grow a little faster than some of our other trout varieties. Donaldsons are an aggressive fighting fish and prone to jumping more when hooked. Overall, we're carefully managing the lake to allow the minnows, crayfish and insects to further establish themselves in the fishery.
Two things to note for fishermen:
- Aerators and fish habitat - there are six (expensive) aerators, please don't try and catch one! Similarly, we placed a number of fish shelters around the bottom of the lake to give the smaller fish protection as they grow. If you fish deep, you might hook, but not land, one of these 250-pound structures.
- Shore contour - when we dredged the lake (see below), we reshaped the bottom to allow better movement and oxygenation of the water. There are now several areas with sharper drop-offs, if you wade fish, be careful where and how far you wade into the water. Areas of more significant change are the southeast shoreline and the west shoreline, especially around the inlet area. Be careful where you wade until you learn the new lake bottom!
History - Shagwa was originally a classic irrigation reservoir, providing water to the hay meadows between it and Papoose, and into the pastures of what is now Apache. It was decreed in 1919 and used exclusively for irrigation until the early 60's. At that time, the Board decided to see how fishing might fare in such a small lake. It was quickly proven to be a prolific grower of fish, but its shallow depths didn't allow the fish to winter. In the late 60's when the Board was trying its hand at raising fish in Papoose, the dam was raised in order to release a little water to aid in harvesting the fish in Papoose. This added volume of water allowed the fish in Shagwa to survive most winters, thus producing large fish. In the 80's the Board added aeration of the lake in order to further prevent the occasional winter kills of the fish. In the 90's the dam was refurbished, and the lake was turned into the Company's first "Catch and Release" lake. The larger fish resulted in more fishermen per surface acre than any of our other lakes. Shagwa has also been one of the harder lakes to manage. Its shallow depth and prolific ability to grow water plants (from algae to rooted aquatic plants), has led us to control them with chemicals and grass carp. Even then, we've experienced several summer kills, and in the 2000's had to eradicate a perch infestation.
Rehabilitation of Shagwa - on June 27th 2015, we experienced a near 100% fish kill at Shagwa. We closed Shagwa to any further fishing and conducted several water tests in July and August of 2015. The early tests showed trace amounts of E.coli, which means sewage was entering the lake, and while not at the level to be a human health hazard it was sufficient to impact the fishery. Fortunately, water quality tests of the source water, and at Hiawatha and Papoose showed no water quality issues. We consulted with Larimer County Health Department and gained their support as we worked to find the source(s) of contamination.
Investigation work during 2016
- We managed Shagwa as we normally do, by that we mean, filled it during the spring runoff and controlled the algae. However, we did not stock any fish as our primary interest was to determine the source(s) of contamination and determine a plan to improve the water quality.
- Conducted water quality tests at 5 locations every two weeks during the summer through our consultant, Aquatics Associates, Inc. Tests were run on many parameters, but of particular concern is that they showed E.coli was present throughout the summer. The level of E. coli was always well below the State and EPA standard of 126 cfu/100ml, however the level increases from 0-9 in May up to 40 during mid-summer, and then returned to 0-4 by the end of August. This indicated the levels increased with cabin usage and that some sewage is entering the lake. While this is not at the level to be a human health hazard, it is sufficient to impact the fishery.
- In September, we hired Farnsworth Group to conduct a hydrology study of the surrounding area. The objective was to understand more about how the water and effluent are moving underground. And make recommendations for next steps (be it more focused study work, mitigation steps, etc.).
- As part of the hydrology study we began working with the surrounding property owners to understand more about their water and sewage solution, their water quality, what testing they've done, etc.
Work in 2017
- We continued working with surrounding neighbors on the status of their wells and sewage systems.
- In April, we drilled eight core sample holes to better understand the rock composition at the edge of the lake. Four of these were set up for us to take water quality samples, which we did during July and August.
- We took sludge samples at several points across the lake bottom to understand more about the depth and composition of the biomass.
- We drained the lake and trenched the west side so that we could monitor the quality of the ground water that seeps / leaches into the lake.
- While the water samples showed a couple areas of poorer water quality, they weren't definitive enough to identify the source of contamination. No doubt the sludge has been a contributing factor, and we think the elevated water table has helped leach in sewage effluent since late 2013.
- From late October through early December we dredged Shagwa, deepening both the pool in front of the dam and creating a pool and channel in the south end. We also took the top layer from the edges of the south end. In total, we moved 41K cubic yards of material. Reshaping the south end reduces the issue of the shallow water trapping fish in a lower oxygen situation.
Work in 2018
- Filled the lake in May!
- We installed a new aeration system. It has six bubblers each on its own air pump, distributed over a greater area of the lake.
- We continued taking water samples, results showed nearly zero E. coli and other water factors such as pH, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous levels are similar to our other lakes.
- After the lake settled and started growing plants, we stocked forage species of crayfish and fathead minnows. We also stocked a few grass carp in the fall.
2019 - In April we stocked Donaldson rainbows and opened the lake for fishing in May. The Donaldson's are a very aggressive fish when feeding and when caught will jump and run. Our fishermen have really enjoyed catching (and releasing) these Donaldson rainbows. We presently plan to have Shagwa be an exclusive Donaldson rainbow fishery. Our fish Biologist’s forage survey this summer determined the fathead minnows, crayfish and insect populations are in great shape.