Non-native predators could threaten endangered species in Colorado River
Colorado wildlife managers will try to curb expansion of non-native northern pike in Summit County’s Green Mountain Reservoir by paying anglers a $20 bounty for each fish they deliver to the Heeney Marina.
The illegally introduced fish are taking a toll on trout in the reservoir north of Silverthorne and could escape to the Blue River and make their way to the Colorado River. That could add to the challenges of trying to recover four endangered native Colorado River fish species, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“The (pike) were dumped in there several years ago by someone who selfishly didn’t consider the serious consequences we are now dealing with,” said CPW aquatic biologist Jon Ewert. “People should know that illicit stocking is a problem not only for ethical reasons but legal reasons as well. Anyone caught doing it faces severe penalties.”
“Northern pike are aggressive predators with big appetites and if their population continues to grow in Green Mountain Reservoir, that will have profound impact on the fish we have stocked there, as well as potential impacts to the endangered native fish we are currently trying to recover,” said Ewert. “This is a win-win for the agency and anglers. They can catch a predatory fish and earn some money, it helps us protect our native fish, and we can manage the reservoir responsibly into the future.”
According to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, the presence of predators like northern pike and smallmouth bass in native fish critical habitat significantly increases the difficulty of delisting the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail.
To participate, anglers must bring their northern pike to the Heeney Marina along with their driver’s license and fishing license. CPW will keep fish heads for analysis, returning the body of the fish to the anglers. Anglers not wishing to keep northern pike can donate their catch to the Marina for later distribution.
There are no limits for northern pike and smallmouth bass in Western Colorado. Anglers are encouraged to catch and keep as many of the fish as they desire, unless special regulations are in effect on specific waters.
For more information, contact CPW’s Hot Sulphur Springs office at 970-725-6200. Heeney Marina can be reached at 970-724-9441. To report illicit stocking or any other illegal wildlife activity anonymously, anglers can call Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648.