Rifle Gap on the rise?
Management plan up for approval at Rifle Gap Reservoir
The last big step in diversifying the fishery opportunities at Rifle Gap Reservoir is one step closer to completion.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has submitted for approval a proposed lake management plan for the 360-acre centerpiece of Rifle Gap State Park.
Once the go-ahead comes, the Colorado agency can develop future stocking plans for the reservoir, which may include stocking walleye, black crappie and yellow perch.
Currently, the state stocks only rainbow and brown trout.
The management plan must be reviewed by members of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery program, which includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Wyoming and Utah.
“We developed the management plan with input we received at a public meeting in 2010 and comments we have received since then,” Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist Lori Martin said. “Public feedback was critical to form what we feel is a very good vision for future fisheries management of Rifle Gap.”
The fishery currently includes trout, crappie, yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike.
Trout are stocked several times each year.
The bass and walleye, now self-sustaining, were stocked initially by the then-Division of Wildlife in 1972 prior to the recovery program being initiated.
The pike and perch were stocked illegally.
Because smallmouth bass and northern pike are predatory and can live in rivers, they are considered “incompatible” with native fish and will not be stocked.
A fish screen installed in 2013 on Rifle Creek below the reservoir will slow the spread of any non-native fish from the reservoir into the Colorado River.
A majority of the approximately $300,000 funding for the fish screen project came from federal Dingell-Johnson funds, an excise tax generated from the sale of fishing equipment.
Parks and Wildlife area manager JT Romatzke called the management plan “biologically sound” and said it is the result of many people and interests working together.
“We thank everyone contributing to this plan,” Romatzke said. “We are doing what we can to give our anglers a variety of opportunities while simultaneously meeting the requirements of the Recovery Program.”
Although walleye also can live in a river environment, the fish being eyed for Rifle Gap Reservoir would be sterile, triploid walleye, creating a controllable population.
Triploid walleye are created in the hatchery by putting the eggs under pressure just after they’re fertilized. This leaves the egg with all three sets of chromosomes instead of two, which render the resulting fish sterile.
Research by the state of Montana shows triploid walleye as being more than 99 percent sterile.
Sterile walleye also grow larger than fertile walleye because the triploids spend their energy on growth, not reproduction.