The future of fishing

Meeting to focus on management of Yampa River Basin

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Fish and Wildlife officials are set to discuss a long-awaited draft of a management plan for the Yampa River Basin Wednesday night.

The management plan for endangered fishes in the Yampa River Basin is designed to plan for upcoming stream flows and establish management methods for endangered and nonnative fish.

It's a culmination of several years' work with area residents and in response to public comments gathered at meetings in 2001, said Gerry Roehm, an instream flow coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The principal elements of the plan, the Elkhead enlargement and nonnative fish management are of keen interest to the people of Craig," he said.

A spokesperson for the Colorado River Water Conservation District will be available at the meeting to address questions or concerns covering the proposed enlargement of Elkhead Reservoir, Roehm added.

"This plan is going to affect just about everybody, sportsman especially," said Burt Clements a member of the local chapter of the Yampa Valley Bass Masters, a group that works on fish habitat.

In an effort to save endangered fish in the Yampa River Basin, Fish and Wildlife Service efforts have transported the predator pike species out of the river and into other waterways, such as the Elkhead Reservoir.

The Fish and Wildlife Service lists the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnnow and razorback sucker as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Yampa River is important to the endangered fish, according to the government department, because it provides critical habitat for all four species.

"Nonnative fishes adversely impact the endangered fished and other native species by feeding upon and competing with them," states the plan's summary. "Management actions include measures to reduce the impacts of sport fish such as northern pike, small-mouth bass and channel catfish on the endangered fish."

In the past, the Fish and Wildlife Service have transported pike out of the Yampa River and into the Elkhead Reservoir. Now, as officials plan to expand the reservoir, some of the water has to be drained, posing a possible threat to the pike.

Much of the nonnative fish population provides sport-fishing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

"It should be a an important meeting to go to if people want to talk about bringing the fish back and how it's going to affect out lives in the valley," Clements said.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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