More fish removal planned

State officials hope to reduce number of predators in Yampa

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State officials are set to start transferring northern pike from the Yampa River into Elkhead Reservoir.

The purpose of the transfer is to reduce the level of predatory fish to a level that will enable endangered and other native fish to coexist and thrive in the Yampa River, according to information released by the Upper Colorado River endangered Fish Recovery Program.

"Our data suggests the abundant game fish like northern pike, smallmouth bass and channel catfish are eating most of the young fish produced each year," said Colorado Division of Wildlife Native Fish Conservation Program Manager Tom Nesler. "This will result in declining adult populations of native fish species over time. We think the reduction of large predators like northern pike from the river may improve survival and abundance of Colorado pikeminnow, in part by reducing competition for food."

The fish will be removed from the Yampa River at three locations in Moffat County.

One site is at River Mile 177 between Hayden and Craig, one is at River Mile 120 between Craig and Dinosaur and another is at River Mile 46 between Dinosaur National Monument and the Green River Confluence.

The states of Colorado and Utah, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado State University are partnering in the recovery program.

At different locations along the river, officials will remove non-native fish species, including northern pike, smallmouth bass and channel catfish.

The fish are being removed, officials say, because they pose a threat to endangered humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker species.

"This research will help identify the level of management required to minimize the threat of non-native fish to the endangered fish to satisfy criteria needed to recover these species," said Recovery Program Director Robert Muth. "We will assess the data each year to determine future non-native fish management actions."

The goal of the project, officials say, is to "downlist" the fish from the "endangered" category to the "threatened" category.

Biologists have been transferring northern pike from the Yampa River to area fishing ponds since 2000.

This summer's removal will last from April to September at different locations along the Yampa River in Moffat County.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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