LATE TROUT STOCKING AT VALLECITO RESERVOIR AIMED AT CUTTING PIKE PREDATION
In a continuing effort to maintain a balanced fishery at Vallecito Reservoir, the Colorado Division of Wildlife is stocking large-size rainbow trout this fall.
About 45,000 13-inch hatchery-raised trout will be stocked starting Nov. 21.
Vallecito Reservoir, located about 30 miles northeast of Durango, is one of Colorado’s larger reservoirs and an outstanding fishery, explained Mike Japhet, senior aquatic biologist for the DOW’s southwest region. The lake has long been home to rainbow and brown trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and kokanee salmon.
The presence of northern pike, however, has presented challenges for DOW fishery managers. Pike are voracious predators and reproduce prolifically. The Vallecito trout and the kokanee salmon fishery have declined in recent years as a result of fire and drought in the area. Also, anglers and biologists agree that pike are feeding heavily on trout, especially the 10-inch trout that are usually stocked in the lake in the spring.
It is hoped that stocking rainbow trout late in the year will reduce predation by the pike, Japhet explained. As water temperatures cool in the fall, pike are not feeding as actively as during spring and summer months. The 13-inch trout should be large enough to avoid predation by northern pike.
“The trout should grow a couple of inches over the winter. So next spring anglers will have a chance to catch some really nice size fish,” Japhet said.
Maintaining a variety of species in Vallecito is important for anglers and for the health of the fishery, Japhet explained. The lake is becoming renowned for large pike – several that measure more than 40 inches long were caught last summer. But if the predatory pike become too dominant in the lake they can eliminate other species and eventually its own population will crash.
Anglers are cautioned that the Colorado Department of Health has posted a mercury advisory for the pike and walleye at Vallecito. The health department recommends the that people should not eat more than one meal per month of northern pike or walleye larger than 27 inches caught from Vallecito. Pregnant women and children 6 years or younger are advised not to consume any pike or walleye. Northern pike and walleye under 27 inches are not included in the fish consumption advisory for Vallecito.
The fish consumption advisory for Vallecito Reservoir can be found at this web site: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/wq/FishCon/FishCon.html.
The fish consumption advisory should not be misconstrued as a total ban on eating predator fish from Vallecito. “While we want folks to heed the fish consumption advisory, we also encourage anglers to harvest northern pike to make room for other fish,” Japhet said. “By catching and keeping pike we have a better opportunity to maintain a balanced fishery and Vallecito’s appeal to a variety of anglers.”
The DOW is planning a creel survey next summer to determine how many fish are being caught by anglers at the reservoir.
For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.