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The Good News
2015 May
Pg 4 - The Sunshine Express
CPW Evaluating Kokanee Salmon
At Blue Mesa Reservoir
GUNNISON: Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists
are keeping a close eye on the fishery at Blue
Mesa Reservoir and continue work to rebuild the
kokanee salmon population.
On April 2, CPW made the annual release of about
3 million fingerling kokanee from the Roaring
Judy Hatchery. Those fish that reach maturity will
return to spawn in two to five years. Kokanee at
Blue Mesa Reservoir are critically important for
CPW¡¯s fishery program statewide. Of any reser-
voir in Colorado, Blue Mesa produces the largest
number of kokanee eggs annually. These eggs
are essential for stocking kokanee in 26 waters
throughout the state.
The kokanee population has been on a steady de-
cline for the last decade. In the early 2000s, the
population was estimated at more than 1 million
fish. In 2013, the last time biologists conducted
a sonar survey, they found fewer than 200,000
kokanee in the reservoir. Predation by lake trout
on kokanee is the major factor in the population
decline. Kokanee are the primary prey for lake
trout, providing the food source that allows the
lake trout to grow to trophy size. And while the
kokanee population has declined, the lake trout
population has grown significantly.
¡°Managing the fishery in Blue Mesa is a challeng-
ing task because of a variety of factors, said Dan
Brauch, aquatic biologist in Gunnison. ¡°CPW is
working to restore a balance in the fishery.¡±
The challenge was compounded by low-water
conditions during the summer of 2013. The low
water affected water quality in one area of the
reservoir. An algae bloom depleted oxygen and
caused a die-off of some fish.
More significantly, the low water caused kokanee
anglers to keep all of the fish caught that are
under 38 inches; anglers can keep one fish
over 38 inches.
¡°We are counting on anglers
to harvest the numbers of fish
needed to help restore a
balance in the reservoir.¡±
- Dan Brauch, aquatic biologist in Gunnison
¡°The smaller and more numerous lake trout
appear to be having a much greater impact
on kokanee than the larger trophy-sized lake
trout,¡± Brauch said. ¡°So CPW encourages
anglers to harvest and keep lake trout that
are under 30 inches. This helps the kokanee
population and helps improve growth of larger
lake trout. We can manage for both spe-
cies, but we need help from anglers. We are
counting on anglers to harvest the numbers
of fish needed to help restore a balance in the
reservoir.¡±
CPW also removes some lake trout in the fall;
in 2014, about 2,000 were removed. The vast
majority of the fish removed were less than
26 inches in length.
During the summer, CPW biologists will
conduct surveys to continue monitoring fish
populations. Because of budget cuts, how-
ever, a full sonar survey analysis hasn¡¯t been
conducted since 2013. The agency is trying to
find funding to continue the sonar work.
¡°Fishing at Blue Mesa Reservoir provides a
major boost to the economy of Gunnison
had little success catching kokanee last sum-
mer.
Fewer fish headed back upstream during the
annual spawning run to the Roaring Judy
Hatchery. CPW harvested only about 3 million
eggs last October from the Blue Mesa ko-
kanee, a decline of about 5 million from the
previous year.
¡°The water level improved somewhat last
year, but the runoff will be down again this
spring,¡± Brauch said. ¡°We can¡¯t say for sure
what¡¯s going to happen this year or how ko-
kanee will be affected.¡±
Predation of kokanee by lake trout continues
to be a major concern for CPW. To encourage
harvest of lake trout, CPW regulations allow
County and we¡¯ll continue doing everything we
can to rebuild the kokanee population while also
providing trophy lake trout opportunities for
anglers,¡± said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in
Gunnison.
For more information about fishing in Colorado
and for more news about Colorado Parks and
Wildlife go to: cpw.state.co.us
CPW Counting On Anglers
Spring Fever Fun Run
CPW regulations allow anglers to keep all Lake
Trout caught from Blue Mesa that are under 38
inches; anglers can keep one fish over 38 inches
The Bureau of Land Management Little Snake
Field Office announces the 2nd Annual Spring
Fever Fun Day event scheduled for May 16 in
the Sand Wash Basin.
Yampa Valley OHV Trailriders and Stay the Trail
Colorado are partnering with the BLM for this
Off Highway Vehicle Event designed to introduce
the public to motorized trails in the popular
Sand Wash Basin.
¡°This fun and educational event is open to ATVs,
UTVs and 4x4 high-clearance vehicles and is
a great opportunity to experience some of the
rarely explored features the area has to offer,¡±
said Gina Robison, outdoor recreation planner in
Craig.
Registration begins at 8a at the BLM¡¯s corral
facility on County Rd 67. The guided ride begins
at 9:15a and lasts approximately 6 hrs. Camp-
ing is available Fri and Sat night. Saturday¡¯s
event includes a raffle, free sound testing and
other activities. Participants are encouraged to
bring their own lunch for Saturday¡¯s ride.
Pre-register contact Gina Robison 970.826.5083
or email: grobison@blm.gov
and lake trout to
be crowded close
together which likely
led to greater pre-
dation by the lake
trout.
Because of those
conditions, anglers