Elkhead Reservoir State Park stocked with lunker largemouth bass
- People 16 and older are required to buy a fishing license to fish or take fish, amphibians and crustaceans, except as prohibited.
- People under 16 can take a full bag and possession limit without a license.
- Colorado residents 64 and older can obtain an annual fishing license from a CPW location or license agent for $1.
- License/s must be carried while fishing.
- Bag and possession limit for crappie is 10.
- Bag, possession and limit for Largemouth Bass is 2 with a minimum size of 15 inches long.
- A fee is required to enter the state park.
- Smallmouth Bass: the upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye; fish usually have vertical stripes or spots along the sides.
- Largemouth Bass: the upper jaw extends beyond the eye; fish often have a dark horizontal stripe extending the length of the body.
Anglers are in for fight, as 120 largemouth bass, each weighting between three to six pounds, were stocked in Elkhead Reservoir Monday.
“They’re catchable,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Tory Eyre.
Stocking the fish was done as part of a deal to transition the fishery away from northern pike and smallmouth bass believed to interfere with the recovery of four endangered fish species — humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker — downstream in the Yampa River.
Initially, in 2014, officials floated the idea of poisoning all the fish in the reservoir with the chemical rotenone and restocking it in 2015 with more desirable fish species. After community outcry at the potential loss of the popular fishery, a deal was struck.
As part of the deal, a net was installed across the reservoir spillway to prevent undesirable fish from entering the river, and for a second year CPW will hold, what local anglers call, a “kill tournament” to help further reduce northern pike and smallmouth bass populations.
“I’d just as soon see it not happen,” said Burt Clements, who represents anglers on the Endangered Fish Recovery Working Group. “We’ve got to try to help them recover the endangered species, and the federal guys think Elkhead is the contributor.”
The aim is to strike a balance to manage the sports fishery for anglers that is also compatible with what fish recovery team is attempting to accomplish downstream.
“We are increasing stocking for more opportunities for anglers to catch alternative species in place of the species that we are trying to reduce for downstream management,” Eyre said.
Local anglers with four bass boats were on hand to help transport live fish from the CPW transport truck that unloaded fish at the main boat dock to habitat across the reservoir.
“It’s great, we appreciate the CPW’s help. We know they are for the sportsmen, but the federal government is not,” said angler Norm Fedde, who is vehemently against killing fish in Elkhead, including during the upcoming fishing tournament. But he was excited to help stock the large fish and he loaded about 12 large fish into his live well then motored them out to deeper water.
The fish are about 5 to 6 years old and were excess brood stock from the Las Animas Hatchery, which was established in 1937 and the first of two warm water hatcheries managed by the state.
“With stocking fish of all ages, we are trying to give anglers an opportunity to catch fish immediately as well as in the following years,” Eyre said.
Last year 680 largemouth bass in the six- to eight-inch size-range were the first of that species stocked since the 1980s, Clements said.
And earlier this year, 125,000 fry were stocked in the reservoir with more expected to be stocked later this year.
Clements hopes that anglers will release any largemouth bass that they catch to help encourage the fish to continue to thrive.
“They’re doing good, and there’s a good chance with additional recruitment they’ll do OK,” Clements said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education