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[responsivevoice voice=”US English Female” buttontext=”Listen to this”] With the warm weather and plenty of social distancing on the shorelines, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and local partners are back with a way for anglers to make a little money and help remove invasive, predatory fish when they’re fishing at Kenney Reservoir and on the lower White River.
To control an illegal introduction of northern pike in Kenney Reservoir, CPW and the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District are again teaming up to offer a $20 reward for each northern pike turned in between May 15 and November 30, 2020. There is no limit on how much an angler can earn and there is no limit on the number of northern pike that you can catch and keep.
As an illegally introduced species, northern pike negatively impact the fishery at Kenney, especially for many families of anglers that enjoy fishing for channel catfish, crappie, and rainbow trout. Illegal introductions don’t just threaten the balance of a fishery, they can impact water users and federal water flow regimens. While native fish recovery isn’t always a popular topic in western Colorado’s rural communities, it is an important topic. Predatory fish such as northern pike, walleye, and smallmouth bass challenge the recovery of native species, some of which only exist in the river basins of western Colorado. One example is the threat that non-native fish pose to the largest adult population of Colorado pikeminnow, which is located right here in the lower White River.
The presence of northern pike has prompted CPW and the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District to work with a group of partners to support the northern pike reduction efforts. Supporters of the program include the Town of Rangely, Rangely Area Chamber of Commerce, Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Beginning in 2019, the group initiated the angler harvest incentive program targeting all northern pike found within the Conservancy District’s boundaries. Licensed anglers can earn $20 for each northern pike caught and removed from Kenney Reservoir, the White River, and other waters, from approximately Stedman Mesa to the Utah border.
In addition, the partners are looking forward to hosting a weekend fishing derby and expo June 5-7. The derby is a great chance for local residents to learn more about fishing, water, and recovery efforts. CPW staff will be at the event to answer questions and to provide a $250 prize for the most smallmouth bass brought in during the fishing derby. Scheduled activities include interactive learning opportunities, a hands-on display of an electrofishing boat, and an aquarium display including Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.
“Kenney Reservoir is very popular with anglers and currently recognized as an excellent channel catfish, black crappie and common carp fishery,” explained Tory Eyre, CPW Aquatic Biologist for the area. “In the past, we’ve stocked rainbow trout each year, but unfortunately those stocking efforts have temporarily stopped until the pike issue is addressed.”
Illegal introduction of fish is not only a serious crime, it leads to a waste of money that could go to better things.
“We could be spending our resources on fishery and access improvements,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie. “Instead we end up spending limited time and money on removal efforts.”
Research conducted by partners in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program has shown that the unapproved presence of nonnative predators like northern pike and smallmouth bass in critical, native fish habitat is among the most significant impediments to the recovery of Colorado’s endangered fishes — Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail and razorback sucker. These rare species exist nowhere else in the world except in the Colorado River Basin.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the White River, upstream to the Rio Blanco Lake dam west of Meeker and downstream of Kenney Reservoir, is designated critical habitat for the Colorado pikeminnow, and the lower 18 miles of the White River in Utah is designated as critical habitat for razorback sucker. Smallmouth bass, northern pike and other nonnative species in these river stretches have proven detrimental to native fishes.
To participate in the angler harvest incentive within the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District’s boundaries, anglers should bring their freshly caught northern pike to the District office at 2252 East Main Street in Rangely during typical business hours, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. The District will administer the cash harvest incentive with funds provided by CPW through a Colorado legislative bill that appropriates severance tax dollars to the Species Conservation Trust Fund.
For more information about the angler harvest incentive program contact CPW Northwest Region Senior Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin at 970-255-6186.
To report unlawful fish stocking anonymously, call Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to an arrest or citation.
Special to the Herald Times