State biologists try to balance recreation with restoration of native fish
FRISCO —Colorado fishery experts say planting more tiger muskie in western Colorado reservoirs could help provide the sport fishing that anglers want, while helping to meet goals of the Colorado River native fish recovery program. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will release more the tiger muskies in Harvey Gap Reservoir this week, adding to the 140 that were stocked last year.
“We are continuing the evaluation phase of this project,” said aquatic biologist Lori Martin. “This introduction of the non-native species last year was well received. There is still potential for tiger muskie to become a viable alternative to northern pike,” Martin said.
The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, a partnership of several states and agencies including Colorado, has identified the northern pike, smallmouth bass and other predators as significant obstacles to the recovery of the endangered Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail chub and razorback sucker.
The large, aggressive tiger muskie often grow over 50 inches and can weigh up to 30 pounds. They can feed on smaller northern pike, potentially minimizing their numbers. In addition, because the fish do not reproduce, biologists believe their introduction here and in other waters across the Western Slope could have positive benefits for the recovery program.
“These fish are an excellent alternative to northern pike and fit within our management objectives for native fish,” Martin said. “If the evaluation is a success and these fish thrive in Harvey Gap, it could be a win-win situation for everyone.”
The tiger muskie being stocked in Harvey Gap are raised by students at Limon High School. The school’s hatchery is part of unique aquaculture class funded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other partners. As part of the class curriculum, the students will accompany the fish and help with the stocking, the final phase of their fish-rearing efforts.
To protect the newly introduced species, which can be easily mistaken for northern pike, spear fishing, bow fishing and the use of gigs to take northern pike at Harvey Gap State Park remains prohibited. These methods of taking northern pike remain legal at other waters including nearby Rifle Gap State Park. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations allow the possession of one tiger muskie 36 inches or longer in length.