GUNNISON, Colo. — The Blue Mesa Reservoir Lake Trout Tournament returns in January with cash prizes for the fishers who reel in the most catches of small lake trout.
This tournament begins Jan. 1 and continues through April 30. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has held this tournament for three years as part of its management plan to reduce the number of lake trout in the reservoir that are 24 inches long and smaller. The trout, especially those smaller ones, prey on kokanee salmon fry, which CPW aquatic biologists hope to protect with this tournament.
In previous decades, growth in the lake trout population impacted kokanee abundance, and their numbers saw a significant decline. A tournament in 2020 and 2021 were both successful, and CPW said the competition was not needed in 2022 or 2023. In 2021, 516 anglers harvested 5,759 of the trout.
“Recent monitoring has documented an increase in numbers of small lake trout, so ongoing harvest of small lake trout is needed to maintain numbers at appropriate levels,” said Dan Brauch, aquatic biologist for CPW in Gunnison.
Anglers who catch the most fish will earn a large portion of the total purse, with first place earning $3,000, second place earning $1,500, third place earning $1,000 and fourth place earning $500. In addition, every angler will be entered into a raffle for each fish they turn in. Twenty participants, chosen at random, will earn $200 each.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking anglers to be our partners in helping to manage the renowned Blue Mesa Reservoir fishery,” Brauch said. “We know we can have an excellent kokanee fishery and a trophy lake trout fishery, but we need to continue our work for both species and we need the continued help of Colorado’s anglers.”
To participate, anglers need a Colorado fishing license. They can turn in the whole fish, or just the head, in a plastic bag provided at one of the three boat ramps at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Anglers can also turn the heads in at CPW's offices in Gunnison or Montrose.
“We appreciate angler participation in maintaining balance in the Blue Mesa fishery,” Brauch said. “Working together, we will continue to provide quality opportunities for both kokanee and trophy lake trout.”