Elkhead Reservoir fishing tournament concludes in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Elkhead Reservoir fishing tournament concludes in Moffat County

Patrick Kelly

Gary Fry, from Hayden, fishes near shore while a ski boat recovers its skier in the background. Fry said he was "having a blast" fishing in the tournament.

A nine-day fishing tournament concluded at Elkhead Reservoir on Sunday afternoon and a few lucky anglers walked away with big prizes.

The tournament was hosted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and was part of an effort to reduce small mouth bass and northern pike populations in Elkhead Reservoir as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

CPW Senior Aquatic Biologist for the Northwest Region, Sherman Hebein, said he absolutely viewed the tournament as a success, for multiple reasons.

"I don't believe the success of this tournament can be metered solely on the number of fish harvested, because what we did is demonstrate the resolve, cooperativeness and the collaboration," he said.

Hebein said the collaborative effort between CPW and the community has come a long way and the help of local anglers will still be important in moving forward.

Prizes were given out daily for biggest fish, smallest fish and most caught in a day. About 54 groups consisting of an estimated 150 individuals competed throughout the tournament.

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As far as the big prizes go, Josh Hoff walked off with an inflatable pontoon boat for catching 159 small mouth bass over the course of the tournament, as did Lee Goodloe for catching nine northern pike.

Goodloe said he fished every day of the tournament. He was excited for the prize, but was beat after nine days of fishing.

"It's awesome," he said. "I feel tired."

For a chance at the three top prizes — a 16-foot aluminum boat, a float tube with oars and a life jacket and a trolling motor — anglers had to catch a fish with an electronic tag to be entered in the drawing.

Only three fishermen caught tagged fish.

The third place winner was Samuel Newman, 18, whose smallmouth bass gained him entry to the final drawing. Newman's grandfather, Gabriel Daigel, was holding out for the boat.

"He said I could use it all summer," Gabriel joked.

But Newman was happy with the trolling motor and happy with his two days spent fishing on the reservoir.

"For one fish, it's a really good prize," he said. "The two days I came out were nice days, both of them."

Second place was Mark Ybarra from Fort Collins who also caught a tagged-smallmouth bass.

Ybarra, who fished the tournament four days, said he already had plans for the float tube, starting immediately.

"I know three lakes right off the top of my head that I'm going to take this to," he said.

Ybarra also said he was a big fan of the fishery Elkhead and he plans to be back.

"It's definitely one of the gems," he said. "I'll tell my friends about it."

The winner of the grand prize was, Tye Hammond, was not present for the drawing on Sunday afternoon.

The tournament ended in good spirits but the events surrounding Elkhead have been controversial for locals.

Hebein said he was willing to host the tournament and give away significant prizes because getting anglers involved in controlling the non-native smallmouth bass and northern pike population is an important part of the state's involvement in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

CPW originally suggested lowering the water level in the reservoir and poisoning it but that turned out to be unpopular and unfeasible.

Instead, the recovery program hopes to complete a $1.2 million project to install a net on the reservoir this fall to prevent the escapement of predatory nonnatives and work with local fisherman to improve the fishery.

But Hebein said for CPW to reach its goals, it is going to take the help of local anglers.

CPW will be stocking 20,000 large mouth bass as part of its effort to transition the fishery away from small mouth and northern Pike and Hebein said he would be recruiting fishermen to distribute the fish and help improve habitat.

Burt Clements, local angler, said he thinks the fishery can be improved with cooperation and he plans to help with stocking.

"It's a great deal," he said. "It'll make things go down a little smoother with the locals."

Other participants agreed that as long as some sort of fishery can be maintained at Elkhead, it would continue to draw anglers from all areas.

Hebein said the tournament will likely take place again next year.

"This is about promoting Craig, Colorado," he said.

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.