A question has been raised in the last few weeks about the fish shocking methods used by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials on the Yampa River.
Reportedly, the Service had been shocking and reducing the numbers of, not only northern pike in the Yampa but smallmouth bass as well.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been working in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) to reduce the number of non-native, predatory fish whose numbers have increased to unmanageable levels and threaten endangered species in the Yampa.
The USFWS and the DOW have formed the Colorado River Restoration program to help restore the native populations of threatened and endangered species.
However, some outdoor enthusiasts are raising doubts as to the truth of which species the USFWS and DOW are actually removing.
"I have heard from a very reliable source that the Fish and Wildlife Service is taking smallmouth bass out of the Yampa River in addition to the northern pike they're removing," said Steve Henderson, flyshop manager at Bucking Rainbow Outfitters in Steamboat Springs. "Supposedly, they are putting them into Rio Blanco Reservoir to help grow the population there. If this is actually going on, I think that it is not only terrible for the fishermen in the Craig area, but for fishermen throughout the state as well."
The Yampa has become a popular fishing getaway for many people from other regions of the state, many who come specifically for the thrill of catching a trophy northern pike. Henderson believes that even removing the pike could damage the outdoor tourism business in Northwest Colorado.
"Once you get closer to Craig, the pike fishing can be fantastic. We have a lot of people who come in that will head there specifically for the opportunity to catch a pike on a flyrod," Henderson said. "There aren't too many, if any, other rivers in Colorado where people can go and catch a 20-pound pike."
DOW and USFWS officials deny any wrongdoing on their part in the process, or any attempts to remove smallmouth bass from the Yampa River. They say they only want to reduce the pike population to a manageable level, one that would help to restore the population of the Colorado pike minnow, the humpback chub, bonytail chub and razorback sucker.
"We are not doing any removal of smallmouth in the Yampa River," said Frank Pfeifer, project leader for the Colorado River Restoration office in Grand Junction. "There is a tremendous population of them in the river, but at this point, we don't feel as though they are the main focus our efforts. We have been shocking and trapping pike in many areas throughout the river.
"We are putting the ones that we get out of the river below Craig into Rio Blanco Reservoir," Pfeifer said. "For everything that we take out of the river above Craig, we are putting into the state wildlife ponds west of Hayden."
These ponds feature a drop-box for the fish tags, so that officials can monitor the number of fish that are caught in the ponds.