Take caution eating fish from Sweitzer Lake

Sweitzer Lake near Delta was built for public recreation, and during the summer, water sports, including fishing, are the order of the day. The lake, however, has elevated levels of selenium, and anglers are cautioned against eating the fish from the lake.



QUICKREAD

TAIMUR HAJI MAHMOOD/Special to The Daily Sentinel

Sweitzer Lake near Delta was built for public recreation, and during the summer, water sports are the order of the day. The lake, however, has elevated levels of selenium, and anglers are cautioned against eating the fish from the lake.



Beginning in April, a regulation change will allow the take of carp from Sweitzer Lake near Delta.

The change is a big move for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in part because biologists long discouraged this corner from writing about Sweitzer Lake in case it might promote fishing and the subsequent eating of fish from that lake.

As has been previously reported, the lake is full of selenium, a naturally occurring mineral in the Mancos Shale from which the lake was carved.

The human body needs trace amounts of selenium, and like all trace elements, there are concerns about how much is too much.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are several contradictory studies about whether higher blood levels or intake of selenium are related to a lower occurrence of certain types of cancer, including lung, colorectal and prostate cancers.

Sweitzer Lake, named after long-time Colorado fruitgrower Morgan Sweitzer, was built in 1954. It long has been known to have elevated selenium levels, and since 1977 Parks and Wildlife has posted signs around the lake warning anglers not to eat the fish they catch.

The agency urges anglers not to eat the fish; the change is to allow bowhunters to take carp — to be used as bait — without violating the law.

As Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton pointed out, “There is no catch-and-release with bowfishing.”

Drought affects pheasant numbers

The snowstorm last week made it difficult for some Western Slope bird hunters to reach eastern Colorado for the Nov. 10 pheasant and quail opener.

If you’re thinking about making up for the lost weekend during the Thanksgiving holidays, be aware hunting conditions are expected to be difficult this year across much of the traditional upland bird area.

Quail and pheasant populations across eastern Colorado “are much lower than in 2011,” said Ed Gorman, small-game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “This area was stricken by a dry winter in 2011–12, and extreme heat and drought during the primary nesting and brood rearing season” last summer.

Gorman said to expect bird populations at least 50 percent lower than in 2011.

The only bright spot in the forecast is extreme southeast Colorado (Baca and Prowers counties), where near-normal precipitation helped the bird numbers.

Gorman said hunters in normally productive northeast Colorado will see lower bird numbers and less cover habitat because of the drought.

“Better populations of pheasants (may be found) in the irrigated croplands of the South Platte River valley,” he said.

Gorman reported northeast Colorado (including Yuma, Phillips, Sedgwick, Logan, Washington, Morgan and southeast Weld counties) experienced an early spring with good nesting conditions, but brood habitat was limited to irrigated cropland.

As usual, pheasant densities increase in the areas with sprinkler-irrigated fields.

Colorado’s pheasant and quail seasons run through Jan. 31 in most areas east of Interstate 25 and Jan. 6 west of I-25.


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