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The 2019 Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic is in the books and after crunching numbers, CPW says the angling contest continues to be a success
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
CRAIG, Colo. - The Fourth Annual Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic is in the books and now that the 2019 numbers have been compiled and annual fish stocking has been completed, Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the angling contest at one of Northwest Colorado's largest bodies of water continues to be a success for both the agency and anglers.

From the moment the week-long tournament kicked-off the morning of June 22, a total of 270 anglers hit the water eagerly competing for multiple prizes, including two tagged fish - one northern pike and one smallmouth bass worth $1500 each. A few anglers went home with cash prizes totaling $4,500 and multiple daily prizes totaling an additional $4,500. The funds for cash prizes came from a Colorado Water Conservation Board program.

When it was over, anglers caught and kept 492 smallmouth bass and 419 northern pike, approximately 17 percent of the adult smallmouth bass and eight percent of the adult northern pike within the reservoir. The numbers do not include an additional 135 juvenile northern pike and 89 juvenile smallmouth bass removed by anglers, adding to the overall totals of targeted fish anglers removed.

Since the tournament began in 2016, CPW estimates anglers have removed a total of 1,186 northern pike and 2,524 smallmouth bass from the reservoir.

"These numbers show that for a tournament that typically runs about a week, the effort to reduce the numbers of northern pike and smallmouth bass in Elkhead has been very effective for such a short time frame," said Lori Martin, CPW's senior aquatic biologist for the Northwest Region. "We are making headway, thanks to the angling community, but we'll need to keep at it in order to accomplish some important goals."

Martin says CPW's two main priorities are to continue providing excellent angling recreation while simultaneously mitigating the threat nonnative fish, primarily northern pike and smallmouth bass, pose to Colorado's native fish that inhabit the Yampa River downstream of the reservoir.

"Conserving local populations of native fishes is an important goal for CPW as a partner in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program," said Martin. "Unfortunately, large populations of predatory northern pike and smallmouth bass have prolonged recovery efforts. But while harvest of these species is necessary, it does not mean anglers will be left without opportunity. In fact, we have all been working hard, anglers included, to maintain Elkhead Reservoir as a sportfishing destination and I believe we have been successful."

Martin says in 2019 CPW stocked approximately a half-million largemouth bass fry and 20,000 largemouth bass fingerlings, 26,000 fingerling bluegill and 16,000 black crappie fingerlings. In addition, managers stocked 70 brood largemouth bass averaging almost 20 inches long and 25 largemouth bass averaging just shy of 13 inches.

In total, CPW has stocked over 56,000 black crappie, more than one million largemouth bass and 168,000 bluegill in Elkhead Reservoir since 2015.

"That's a lot of fish," said Martin. "With the cooperation of local anglers, CPW has been able to stock the reservoir with fish that are great to catch and are compatible with native fish. We look forward to continued collaboration with the community.

CPW managers are already planning for the 2020 Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic, scheduled for next June.

"We've got a good thing going on up here and CPW is proud to be a part of it," she said. "Now, it's on to next year's Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic. We invite everyone to catch and keep smallmouth bass and northern pike year-round at Elkhead, and join us again next year for the 5th Annual Fishing Classic where everyone can have some fun, be a part of a very important conservation effort and maybe earn a little cash as well."