Emergency public fish salvage begins Monday at Jumbo (Julesburg) Reservoir
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is announcing an emergency public fish salvage at Jumbo (Julesburg) Reservoir beginning Monday, Aug. 24.
Due to high irrigation demand created by severe drought, the water level in Jumbo Reservoir is expected to decline to a point that will likely result in a loss of the entire fishery resource. Water levels are expected to be below the boat ramp within about a week, eliminating access to trailer-launched boats.
The public salvage is being announced in order to optimize use of the fishery resource as outlined:
-- The emergency fish salvage is permitted only at Jumbo (Julesburg) Reservoir and only during daylight hours.
-- All anglers must have a valid Colorado fishing license in accordance with state statutes.
-- No commercial angling is allowed.
-- Only angling methods that are currently legal at the reservoir are allowed. Learn more by clicking here.
-- Current size, bag, and possession limits for all species are suspended for Jumbo (Julesburg) Reservoir until the emergency public fish salvage is terminated.
-- Notification of the emergency public fish salvage opening and closure will be made through press releases, and signs will also be placed at the reservoir.
-- No motorized vehicles, including ATVs, are allowed on the lake bed.
-- The end date of the emergency public fish salvage will be announced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
CPW’s northeast aquatics team was out on the reservoir Thursday and Friday evenings with electrofishing equipment in an attempt to capture and move some of the fish. The ones captured were moved to North Sterling Reservoir. CPW has enacted this emergency public salvage in an attempt to help utilize as much of the resource as possible.
Though the fishery resource may be lost, CPW plans to rebuild the fishery as soon as water levels allow, according to local fisheries biologist Mandi Brandt.
“It is very unfortunate to lose such an incredible and popular fishery,” Brandt said. “The fishery plays an important role in the local economy. Jumbo anglers really enjoy fishing for walleye and crappie in particular.”
Fortunately, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has experience rebuilding fisheries.
“We have had to rebuild fisheries in the past after severe droughts,” Brandt added. “We rebuilt the fisheries at both Jumbo and North Sterling Reservoirs following the drought in 2012. It takes time, but it can be done. As long as water levels are adequate, anglers should be able to begin catching a few 7-10 inch walleye next summer. By the summer of 2023 many walleye should reach the minimum size limit of 15 inches. It will take about four years for crappie to reach the minimum size limit of 10 inches.”
While the reservoir’s fishery is being rebuilt, anglers are encouraged to fish the other reservoirs on Colorado’s northeastern plains.
“North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs both have great walleye and crappie populations for anglers to utilize, and Jackson Reservoir is a great walleye and wiper fishery.”
Jumbo has become a very popular multi-state fishery over the last eight years.
“It is popular from not only a local standpoint on the northeast plains, but Front Range residents have learned about it and a significant portion of the Jumbo Reservoir State Wildlife Area visitation is out of Nebraska because it is just close enough and word has spread there,” said District Wildlife Manager Mason Allen. “We certainly hate to lose a fishery of this quality. It can be rebuilt and it will be rebuilt. Mandi is good at what she does and the fish will be there as long as there is water.”
Similar to all northeastern plains reservoirs, Jumbo Reservoir was constructed to store irrigation water for agricultural use. Water used to fill the reservoir is diverted from the South Platte River between the towns of Proctor and Crook, and flows through a 22-mile earthen inlet canal before reaching the reservoir.
First filled in 1907, Jumbo Reservoir is 113 years old. Since the primary function of Jumbo Reservoir is to store irrigation water, water levels routinely drop during the irrigation season. During a typical year, water levels are drawn down by approximately 15 feet. During dry years more water is needed for agricultural purposes, drastically reducing water levels and creating many fish management challenges.
Due to severe drought conditions, the reservoir was completely drained in the early fall of 2006. Severe drought conditions returned in 2012, reducing the water level to a maximum depth of three feet. In anticipation of extremely low water levels and the potential for a summerkill, CPW initiated a public fish salvage which excused the length, bag and possession limits for all species in the reservoir.
“Several thousand fish, the majority being walleye, were salvaged by anglers,” Brandt said. “The reduction in fish biomass, along with a steady stream of water running through the reservoir from the inlet to the outlet, likely aided in the survival of the remaining fish and fortunately the reservoir did not experience a summerkill. Colorado Parks and Wildlife crews have since rebuilt the fishery by restocking millions of walleye and thousands of other sportfish species.”
By 2015, the walleye and crappie fisheries were booming and the smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill fisheries were also doing very well.
“Provided the South Platte River Drainage receives a large snowpack and plenty of rain during the future spring and summer months, the fishery should recover and begin to thrive once again in the coming years,” Brandt said.
From the 2019 survey of the reservoir, 19 different fish species were recorded in Jumbo. Those include: walleye, saugeye, wiper, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, white crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, orangespotted sunfish, channel catfish, freshwater drum, black bullhead, quillback, river carpsucker, shorthead redhorse, white sucker, gizzard shad, and common carp. Rainbow trout were also stocked into the reservoir in 2019.
General Information: Jumbo Reservoir is a 1,578 acre water (at full capacity) located on the Jumbo State Wildlife Area. Fishing pressure is moderate to high.
Location: Logan and Sedgwick Counties. From I-76 take Exit 155 and head 3 miles north to Hwy 138. Take Hwy 138 1 mile northeast to CR 95. Take CR 95 2 miles north to the reservoir.