GUNNISON, Colo. – If you’d like to reel in a little more than just fish this winter, spring and summer, you’re going to have to make the trip to western Colorado.
Why, you might ask? Well, Colorado Parks and Wildlife needs your help to maintain kokanee and lake trout populations to help manage the Blue Mesa Reservoir fishery – and they’re willing to compensate you with $10,000 in cash prizes for the assist.
It’s all part of the Blue Mesa Reservoir Lake Trout Tournament, which starts Feb. 1 and goes through July 31.
Here’s the catch, though: You’ll only be allowed to target smaller-sized lake trout, approximately 24 inches in length or smaller, in order to be eligible for the big prize.
Here are the rules for the tournament if you’re still interested:
Anglers who catch lake trout 24 inches or smaller will have to remove the heads and put them in a plastic bag that will be provided at one of three boat ramps at the Blue Mesa Reservoir: Iola, Elk Creek and Lake Fork, CPW officials say. Heads can also be turned in at CPW’s offices in Gunnison, located at 300 W. New York Ave. or in Montrose, at 2300 S. Townsend Ave., on US Highway 550.
Here’s the kicker: There is no fee to participate in the tournament.
CPW officials said cash prizes will be awarded in three categories at the end of the tournament:
1. Anglers who’ve caught one of 23 tagged fish in the reservoir will receive $250 for each fish caught. Note: Anglers won’t be able to tell if they’ve caught a tagged fish; only CPW will know when they scan the heads for tags.
2. Anglers catching the most fish will receive: $1,000 (1st place); $500 (2nd place); $250 (3rd place).
3. Anglers will also be entered in a raffle for every lake trout head turned in. A total of 20 winners will be selected and each winner will get $200.
Officials said a change in water management at Blue Mesa Reservoir in the early 90s improved conditions of lake trout spawning areas in the fall, and now they reproduce naturally. But as the number of lake trout grew, the number of kokanee diminished, as the trout feasted on the kokanee.
But due to recent angler harvest as well as CPW’s lake trout suppression work, the number of predatory lake trout has been reduced and kokanee abundance has improved, officials said.
Additionally, CPW officials said maintaining abundant kokanee will support quality fishing opportunities for kokanee and kokanee eggs for restocking needs at up to 25 waters in Colorado while allowing for continued growth of trophy lake trout.
If you’d like more information about fishing at Blue Mesa Reservoir, or need guidance on how to catch lake trout, click here.