The variety of sportfish species in Colorado is second to none. Over the course of a year, an east-slope angler could reasonable catch up to 29 separate coldwater and warmwater species. Anglers traveling south to New Mexico will have a decent shot at 17 species while Nebraska boasts 20 participants willing to bounce your bobber. Certainly, the unique combination of high-mountain streams and lakes coupled with warmer eastern plains’ reservoirs pushes the availability of sport species to the pinnacle. However, a fair number of species available to Colorado anglers are acquired through trades with other states.
My travels this week are a great example of agencies working together for the benefit of anglers in both Colorado and Nebraska. Roughly 6 weeks ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife made due on an agreement with Nebraska Game and Parks by supplying 10 million fertilized walleye eggs. Although Nebraska produces their own crop of walleye, the Colorado fish are available a full month before internal stocking takes place. Thus, reservoirs in Southern Nebraska, which warm faster, can be stocked earlier which expedites growth of the stocked walleye.
I cashed in some of my chips this week. Representatives from the North Platte hatchery met me in Julesburg, quickly filling my empty hauling tank with 5,500 northern pike fingerlings and 154,000 white bass fry, two fish species not available from in-state hatcheries.
The white bass, three days old, were destined for a Pueblo Hatchery pond full of tiny zooplankton. By stocking the fry in a pond devoid of fish, conditions will permit the white bass to improve swimming ability and size before being released in a reservoir rich with predators. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, but with a little luck, total returns from the Pueblo pond may equate to 60,000 white bass measuring 2.5 inches. Virtually all of the white bass will be stocked in Boyd Lake, Boedecker Reservoir, and Horseshoe Reservoir, each near Loveland. Another 10% will call McIntosh Reservoir in Longmont home.
The northern pike story was slightly different. Pike, a top tier fish-eating predator, complete the annual reproductive ritual earlier than any other spring-spawning fish in Colorado (and Canada for that matter). This means that the fish reach the desired stocking size much earlier thus I delivered the pike directly to Lagerman Reservoir, west of Longmont. More importantly, the timing of pike spawn is a life history strategy that coincides with the fish reaching predatory size at the same time other young forage fish are emerging from nests.
Lagerman Reservoir has little pike spawning habitat and is overrun with rough fish including common carp, gizzard shad, and white sucker. Plenty of fish flesh is available for consumption that is typically not desired by anglers. I have yet to document natural reproduction in Lagerman, however the water quality (periodic low oxygen) is not the best. This reservoir is a work in progress the survey summary can be viewed here:
Northern pike are a good management tool in the right situation. With a little help from our friends to the east, Colorado anglers can experience the thrill of targeting a few additional species without leaving the Front Range. Here are a few additional species CPW has received from other states in trades the past few years:
Arkansas – grass carp (sterile)
California – golden trout
Kansas – sauger sperm, red ear sunfish
Nebraska – northern pike, sauger sperm, tiger muskie, white bass
Texas – wiper, striped bass
Oklahoma – wiper, striped bass
Wisconsin – sauger
Colorado generally ships out walleye, saugeye, trout, and a few kokanee salmon to assist other states. On a final note Dave Coulson wrote an extremely helpful blog about 1 year ago noting the pitfalls and perils of illegal stocking. Fish recieved from other states undergo an extremely aggressive tests to determine all imported species are free of viruses and pathogens. Please do not illegally move fish but certainly, Go fish Colorado!