Low water levels, habitat degradation and unwanted species plaguing some Colorado reservoirs: as sightings rise, CDOW offering online mountain lion information
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado hunters looking to expand their “wapiti wisdom” can simply go online and participate in a six-month study program covering everything from using GPS technology for planning a hunt to learning about applying for a license.
The Elk Hunting University program debuted in March and has already drawn 40,000 visitors. The Colorado Division of Wildlife anticipates growing interest during the summer as hunters prepare for the fall big game seasons.
The division is also offering information about how to live with mountain lions in a separate online video. More information after the break …
“We want to assist as many elk hunters as we can before the start of the 2010 hunting seasons,” said Jim Bulger, the division’s hunter outreach coordinator. “Our ultimate goal is to prepare hunters to pass the definitive final exam, which of course is their having a more successful and enjoyable hunt in Colorado’s backcountry this fall.”
The program was developed by division of wildlife huntmaster volunteers who teach and mentor novice hunters. It provides an entertaining and educational look into the world of Colorado elk hunting with in-depth “how-to” articles, videos and other resources to help hunters become more successful in their pursuit of Colorado’s most revered big game animal — the Rocky Mountain elk.
“EHU uses online educational products to assist hunters in becoming more knowledgeable and confident in their skills as an elk hunter,” Bulger said. “Most of our past hunter outreach efforts focused around youth-oriented mentoring programs. While it’s extremely important and rewarding to engage young hunters, we felt we could do a better job reaching out to the thousands of adults who want to learn more about hunting elk in Colorado.”
The six-month study program features a new online lesson every two weeks. Current articles available include Elk Hunting 101, Planning a Successful Hunt, Applying for a License, Using Technology and Pre-Scouting: Using Maps and GPS. It’s all on the web at Elk Hunting University.
Hunters can receive automatic e-mail updates each time a new EHU article is published by signing up for the DOW Insider–the DOW’s e-news service. The Insider is free and is available at this link.
Mountain lion safety
Mountain lion sightings are becoming more and more common in Colorado. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has produced a short video about safety in lion country to help educate residents and visitors. Media outlets, schools and organizations are invited to link to this video from their respective web sites.
The Mountain Lion Safety video explains lion behavior, how you can prevent attracting lions onto your property, how to protect pets and livestock, and what to do if you come close to a lion on a trail or in the backcountry. View the video at this link.
CDOW pinpoints cause of SE Colorado fish kill
Unusually cold winter temperatures, low lake levels and water quality issues all contributed to a near-total fish kill at Nee Gronde Reservoir, previously known as a very productive fishery.
“All information points to a winterkill situation caused by an extremely cold winter paired with very low lake levels. There were several weeks of thick ice cover on the lake last winter. Such ice cover is rare in the southeast quadrant of the state,” said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist with the division.
“Capping the nutrient-rich lake under a cover of ice exhausted the oxygen supply. It seems to be unprecedented. Our biologists have never seen this kind of loss at Nee Gronde before,” he said.
Unfortunately, there are virtually no fish left for anglers.
DOW employees noticed dead fish along the shoreline shortly after ice-out last month. Aquatic Biologist Jim Ramsay set six nets on April 15, and set 12 nets on April 20, but only captured five carp that were barely alive.
The DOW is currently devising a strategy to rebuild the fishery by stocking gizzard shad to develop a forage base.
“This winter was a perfect storm of compromised water quality, low lake levels, and very cold winter temps. It is a shame to lose such a productive fishery, but we plan to restore it over the next several months through an aggressive stocking program,” said Krieger.
When full, Nee Gronde Reservoir has the capacity to hold over 100,000 acre feet of water at depths over 70 feet. Other than minimal precipitation, Nee Gronde has not received any irrigation water during the past decade. Today, the reservoir is less than half its capacity.
As water levels decline, salinity increases and oxygen levels decrease. With no fresh water to Nee Gronde for many years, the water quality was compromised and it made the lake susceptible to environmental conditions.
The DOW is looking for the right opportunity to purchase water for both Nee Gronde and Nee Noshe. ”This is a high priority for us,” said Southeast Regional Manager Dan Prenzlow. ”This reservoir complex is an extremely popular place for our constituents to recreate. Ultimately the best solution is to put more water into both of these reservoirs, otherwise a potential exists for this to happen again with the same negative impacts on recreation, the local economy, and the wildlife habitat the reservoirs provide.”
Unfortunately, the prospects for fishing are not very good for nearby Nee Noshe either. Once considered by many to be the best warm water fishery in Colorado, Nee Noshe also suffers from low water levels that have steadily declined since early in the decade as irrigation companies have stored irrigation water in other reservoirs.
Ramsay reports that there are still catfish and wipers alive in Nee Noshe, but the fishing this year will only be a shadow of what it was in the past.
Currently, Nee Noshe covers less than 450 acres. The DOW was able to purchase a small amount of water for the lake in 2008, but that water has essentially evaporated. A fish kill (involving mainly carp and shad) occurred during fall of 2009.
Boaters may be able to launch small vessels from the south boat ramp at Nee Noshe early in the season, but ramp conditions will deteriorate if the lake recedes during summer of 2010. Boaters should call the DOW office in Lamar at 719-336-6600 to check the latest conditions before towing a boat to Nee Noshe.
There are some other options for warm-water anglers looking to get jump starting on the fishing season:
John Martin Reservoir has maintained decent water levels for four consecutive years since it was almost drained in 2006. The DOW purchased extra water last year to raise the permanent pool, and fishing was outstanding, especially for white bass, walleye, saugeye, and catfish. The best fishing usually occurs during the spring months (mid April-June), but if 2010 is similar to 2009, fishing could be excellent throughout summer and fall.
Jackson’s Pond is a popular fishing area located near the town of Eads that was developed by the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation through the DOW’s “Fishing is Fun” project. The pond is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and rainbow trout (seasonal).
The normal water cycle at Adobe Creek is characterized by high spring water levels that are lowered throughout the summer. In recent years, catfish have been the major attraction. Large channel catfish are plentiful as well as large (but fewer) blue catfish. Recent stocking of blue catfish is expected to bolster the numbers of this popular species. Most catfish anglers fish from shore with large surf casting poles. Popular baits include worms, large minnows, cut shad, crawdads, shrimp, and dough bait. Adobe Creek also has crappie and saugeye.
Midwestern Farms Pond was opened to the public in 2008. It is a deep lake, with 54′ of water in places. It is located 6 miles east of Granada on Hwy 50. The lake was stocked in 2008 and 2009 with most warm water species found in Colorado, as well as catchable-sized (10-12″) rainbow trout. The trout are available all year long thanks to the deep cool water. They commonly take anglers’ offerings ranging from worms to power bait and spinners.
Input wanted on Crawford Reservoir angling
Crawford Reservoir, a rare 400-acre warm-water fishery on the West Slope, near Hotchkiss, has suffered from habitat degradation and the introduction of new fish species in recent years, and the fishery has deteriorated to the point that it no longer meets state management objectives.
As a result, the Colorado Division of Wildlife wants public input to develop a new fish management plan for the reservoir.
Two public meetings to discuss issues and ideas for the reservoir are scheduled: May 6 at Memorial Hall in the Hotchkiss Public Library at 6 p.m.; and May 14 at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta at 6 p.m.
“This reservoir is a popular destination for anglers, but the fishery has changed drastically in the last ten years and we are no longer meeting our management goals,” said Dan Kowalski, fisheries biologist for the division of wildlife. “We want to hear from anglers about what they want for the reservoir.”
In the mid 1990s, the reservoir offered fishing for a variety of fish species including yellow perch, black crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass and rainbow trout. The reservoir was known for producing quality-sized perch and bass and the DOW put in place management strategies to encourage these fisheries. Recently, carp and northern pike have expanded greatly in numbers and the quality of the panfish and numbers of bass has declined.
The DOW wants to hear angler opinions and ideas on what fish species should be emphasized in the reservoir and what management strategies should be put in place. Strategies that will be considered include habitat improvement projects, fishing regulations, fish stocking, fish reclamations and the potential to introduce new fish species to the lake.
“These meetings are important because they’ll guide the DOW’s management strategies for many years,” Kowalski said.
Anglers can find background information about the Crawford Reservoir fishery at this CDOW web site.
For more information, contact Kowalski at (970)252-6017.