Catch a fish, help a fish

Local fishing tourneys help keep non-native species at bay

Colorado anglers will have a chance to win boats and fishing gear at two upcoming fishing tournaments sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The fishing tournaments are free and open to anyone with a 2016 Colorado fishing license. No pre-registration is required.

A smallmouth bass tournament will be conducted at Ridgway State Park from June 4-12. At Elkhead Reservoir in northwest Colorado, there will be a smallmouth bass and a northern pike tournament from June 11-19.

“This is a great time of year to fish for these species that are plentiful in these reservoirs,” said Sherman Hebein, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Northwest Region.

For both tournaments, fish of all sizes will be “PIT” tagged. At Ridgway, 10 smallmouth bass will be tagged; at Elkhead, 10 northern pike and 10 smallmouth bass will be tagged.

When fish are turned in by anglers for the day, CPW staff will check them with an electronic scanner. Those who have caught tagged fish will be eligible to win a boat to be awarded by each tournament. To qualify for prizes, anglers must keep all the fish they catch. Those who don’t catch tagged fish will also be eligible for prizes.

At Elkhead, prizes will also be awarded for largest and smallest fish of both species caught each day, most fish caught each day, and most fish caught for the full tournament. 

At the Ridgway tournament, there will also be prizes for anglers 15 years and younger.

The goal of the tournaments is to reduce the population of these species in the reservoirs and to reduce the chances of them escaping downstream. Smallmouth bass and northern pike that escape can thrive in the rivers below the reservoirs and prey on Colorado’s native fish, which include the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail.

“The native fish are uniquely adapted to the Colorado River Basin and are found nowhere else in the world,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologists for CPW’s Southwest Region. “As Colorado’s wildlife agency, it is our mission to ensure these native species thrive in our state waters.”

Maintaining a balance in Colorado’s reservoir fisheries is challenging for aquatic biologists. Non-native species such as smallmouth bass and northern pike are very adaptable and have the ability to negatively impact native fish populations.

“By participating in these tournaments, Colorado anglers help in maintaining a wide variety of sport-fishing opportunities in the state’s waters,” Alves said.

The “PIT” tags, small computer chips, are implanted in the fish and are not visible. All fish caught must be checked at the CPW stations set up at the reservoirs. Live fish will not be checked.

All boaters are reminded that they must go through the aquatic nuisance inspection stations before launching their craft in the reservoirs.

Outstanding camping facilities are available in both locations, so anglers can get an early start in the morning and fish well into the evening. Ridgway State Park offers 283 campsites and three yurts. The daily entry fee to the park is $7 per vehicle and camp sites range in price from $18 to $26 per night. At Elkhead, which is part of Yampa River State Park, there are 16 campsites. Daily entry to the park is $7 per vehicle and all campsites cost $18 per night.

To learn more: for the Ridgway tournament, call Ridgway State Park at 970-626-5822 or 970-252-6000; for the Elkhead tournament, call 970-276-2061.

More information, complete rules for the tournaments and fishing tips can be found at http://cpw.state.co.us/tournament.


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