CPW’s Elkhead fishing tourney data sees more than 1,000 smallmouth bass, northern pike removed | CraigDailyPress.com

CPW’s Elkhead fishing tourney data sees more than 1,000 smallmouth bass, northern pike removed

Craig Press Staff
Drew and Braden Jenrich, of Hayden, display their catches at the Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic.
Andy Bockelman

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the angling contest at one of Northwest Colorado’s largest bodies of water continues to be a success for both the agency and anglers, according to a CPW news release.

The June weeklong fishing tournament at Elkhead Reservoir State Park saw a total of 270 anglers hit the water eagerly competing for multiple prizes totaling more than $10,000, with funds from a Colorado Water Conservation Board program.

Anglers caught and kept a total 492 smallmouth bass and 419 northern pike, approximately 17 percent of the adult smallmouth bass and eight percent of the adult northern pike within the reservoir. The numbers do not include an additional 135 juvenile northern pike and 89 juvenile smallmouth bass removed by anglers, adding to the overall totals of targeted fish anglers removed.

Since the tournament began in 2016, CPW estimates anglers have removed a total of 1,186 northern pike and 2,524 smallmouth bass from the reservoir, the release stated.

“These numbers show that for a tournament that typically runs about a week, the effort to reduce the numbers of northern pike and smallmouth bass in Elkhead has been very effective for such a short time frame,” said Lori Martin, CPW’s senior aquatic biologist for the Northwest Region. “We are making headway, thanks to the angling community, but we’ll need to keep at it in order to accomplish some important goals.”

Martin said CPW’s two main priorities are to continue providing excellent angling recreation while simultaneously mitigating the threat nonnative fish, primarily northern pike and smallmouth bass, pose to Colorado’s native fish that inhabit the Yampa River downstream of the reservoir.

“Conserving local populations of native fishes is an important goal for CPW as a partner in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program,” said Martin. “Unfortunately, large populations of predatory northern pike and smallmouth bass have prolonged recovery efforts. But while harvest of these species is necessary, it does not mean anglers will be left without opportunity. In fact, we have all been working hard, anglers included, to maintain Elkhead Reservoir as a sport fishing destination and I believe we have been successful.”

Martin said in 2019, CPW stocked approximately a half-million largemouth bass fry and 20,000 largemouth bass fingerlings, 26,000 fingerling bluegill and 16,000 black crappie fingerlings. In addition, managers stocked 70 brood largemouth bass averaging almost 20 inches long and 25 largemouth bass averaging just shy of 13 inches.

In total, CPW has stocked over 56,000 black crappie, more than one million largemouth bass and 168,000 bluegill in Elkhead Reservoir since 2015.

“That’s a lot of fish,” Martin said. “With the cooperation of local anglers, CPW has been able to stock the reservoir with fish that are great to catch and are compatible with native fish.  We look forward to continued collaboration with the community.”

CPW managers are already planning for the 2020 Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic, scheduled for next June.

“We’ve got a good thing going on up here and CPW is proud to be a part of it,” she said. “Now, it’s on to next year’s Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic. We invite everyone to catch and keep smallmouth bass and northern pike year-round at Elkhead, and join us again next year for the fifth annual Fishing Classic where everyone can have some fun, be a part of a very important conservation effort and maybe earn a little cash as well.”