Smallmouth Bass Tournament in Ridgway Serves to Protect Native Fish

More than 100 anglers fished at Ridgway Reservoir at Ridgway State Park during July and caught more than 2,000 smallmouth bass during the third annual tournament that ended Sunday.

The purpose of the annual tournament is to protect native fish and water users downstream of the reservoir. Anglers who participated in the tournament were asked by CPW to catch and keep non-native and illegally stocked smallmouth bass.

A total of 126 anglers registered for the event and removed 2,339 smallmouth bass during from July 9-30. The fish ranged in size from three inches to 17 inches. In 2016 anglers removed 1,100 smallmouth.

“Our strategy to extend the tournament to three weeks paid off,” said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Ridgway. “Based on the surveys we did before the tournament and the number of marked fish that were turned in, we know that anglers are helping to suppress the population.”

Smallmouth bass were introduced illegally at Ridgway Reservoir about 10 years ago. The species is a predator fish that can survive in Western Slope rivers. There is significant risk of smallmouth bass escaping from the reservoir into adjacent rivers where they would reproduce and consume native fish species that are found nowhere else in the world. Smallmouth bass have escaped other impoundments in western Colorado and are adversely affecting populations of native fish in several rivers.

Smallmouth bass also have the potential to negatively impact the sport fishery within Ridgway Reservoir.

“We really appreciate that anglers are helping us with this removal effort. They are far better at catching and removing large numbers of fish than CPW is, even with our electrofishing gear,” Gardunio said. “This tournament proves that Colorado’s sportswomen and sportsmen play an important role in wildlife management.”

Using a survey technique called mark-recapture, Gardunio estimates that about 50 percent of smallmouth bass six inches and longer were removed from the reservoir during the tournament.

“With that amount of removal we are starting to see a decline in the population,” Gardunio said.

But even with that many removed, there are still smallmouth in the reservoir and the annual tournament will continue every year.

CPW awarded anglers with raffle tickets for each fish that was turned in and prizes were awarded. The top prize, a 14-foot fishing boat, 20 horsepower motor, trailer and fish finder was won by Rich Tunget of Olathe. In addition, five one-person pontoon boats were awarded. The winners: David Reitz, Delta; Kevin Hays, Ridgway; Zach Tunget, Olathe; Terry Gangle, Grand Junction; and Lawrence Cieslewicz, Houston, Tex.

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