By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Reporter

Drift boats and inflatable rafts slip easily into Roaring Fork River currents just below the Highway 133 bridge during spring and summer months, and into the fall. It’s an often-idyllic scene, with the Roaring Fork’s Gold Medal fishing waters silently pushing the watercraft down stream then out of view.

Out of view of other boaters, that is.

Other boaters who have been stacked up, waiting and snarling to themselves, because some river users (mostly professionals) are more adept at getting their boats off their trailers and into the water than others.

How crazy can it become on the three-boat launching ramp? Veteran fishing guide Tony Fotopulos (aka Gil Finn) told The Sopris Sun that on one of the busiest days of the summer last year, a guy with an inflatable raft had the entire launch blocked as he leisurely got everything together and prepared to push his boat into the river, oblivious to other boats that were starting to pull up.

Time is money for professional guides. “It can get heated out there,” Fotopulos said. “Us fishing guides are working stiffs.”

A handful of “working stiff” fishing guides started organizing themselves late last year into what has become the new Roaring Fork Fishing Guide Alliance. Today, the alliance has grown to about 60 members from Aspen to Eagle. Working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, their first order of business was to put up signs and post information at the Carbondale boat launch with the goal of getting boats into the water within five minutes of when they first pull into the launch area.

“We’re trying to make it faster, more enjoyable, and get everyone on the same page,” Fotopulos explained.

The Carbondale boat launch, which is accessed off Highway 82 near the scenic overlook, has become more and more congested in recent years, and it’s not uncommon for users to pull into the area and find 20-30 boaters scattered here and there, waiting to get the crafts into the water. “… people parked in some pretty stupid places,” Fotopulos observed.

Fotopulos and a few other guides had told Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials about the problems at the Carbondale boat launch during various roundtable discussions but were told if they really wanted to get something done they should form an association with other like-minded guides. “They (CPW) said we’d get more recognition.”

The guides began organizing themselves and through the winter started working with the CPW’s John Groves to layout the area. The guides also pitched in money for professionally designed and manufactured signs that meet CPW specifications. The upshot is that a boat launch user who hasn’t pulled his trailer down the dirt road that leads to the area this year should be pleasantly surprised.

Leading into the area, parallel to the river for about 150 feet, “Staging area” signs are posted that direct users into three slots. From the staging area, boaters pull their trailers to the clearly marked “launch area,” which is about 20-30 yards north of the actual launch ramp. Assuming the driver can back his trailer that far in a fairly straight line, the launch can handle up to three boats at a time.

Roaring Fork Fishing Guide Alliance members worked with Groves on a recent Thursday and set the signs. Casey Concrete donated the concrete for the posts.

As for future projects, Fotopulos said the association hopes to educate the public in river etiquette (For example: it’s the boater’s responsibility to maneuver around a wading angler when the boater approaches, not the other way around). He said the association also plans to upgrade the West Bank boat launch near Iron Bridge.

For more info on the Roaring Fork Fishing Guide Alliance, check out their Facebook page.

Published in The Sopris Sun on May 21, 2015.