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Blue Mesa Lake Trout Tournament participants awarded cash prizes

Fifty individual anglers participated in the 2024 Blue Mesa Reservoir Lake Trout Harvest Incentive Tournament, and the top participants were awarded cash prizes this week.

In total, heads from 898 lake trout measuring 24 inches or less were submitted for potential prizes this year. First place went to Gunnison's Greg Frisina, who submitted 282 lake trout heads after he fished for 228 hours across 22 days.

Frisina earned the top prize of $3,000, and he also won five of the 20 randomly drawn $200 cash rewards that every angler who turned in a fish was eligible to win. In all, 14 anglers claimed cash prizes for participating in the tournament this year.

"We thank everyone who participated this year for helping us implement our management goals of the Blue Mesa fishery," said CPW Aquatic Biologist Dan Brauch. "This year's submission totals were definitely lower due to a lack of suitable ice on the lower two basins of Blue Mesa, and that really limited the ability of anglers to target smaller lake trout that this tournament is geared toward."

The lack of suitable and safe ice for ice fishing at Blue Mesa this year led to a noticeable drop in fish turned in compared to previous tournaments. In 2020, 4,055 lake trout heads were turned in by 338 anglers in the first year of the tournament. In 2021, 1,704 fish were turned in by 179 anglers. Subsequent lake trout monitoring following the first two years of the tournament led CPW to not conduct a tournament in 2022 and 2023.

This year's tournament was held Jan. 1 through April 30. CPW will continue to monitor the fishery before announcing any future harvest incentive tournaments at Blue Mesa Reservoir.

This harvest-incentive tournament helps aquatic biologists maintain management goals of the reservoir. Unsustainable levels of predation by lake trout can lead to rapid declines in kokanee salmon abundance and in lake trout growth and body condition. Research has demonstrated that increased removal of primarily small, young lake trout improves kokanee fry survival, the overall abundance of kokanee and produces more trophy lake trout.

"We are seeing improving kokanee abundance with restored reservoir conditions following the last two winters and subsequent runoff," Brauch said. "The previous drought years combined with significant degradation of habitat during those years has resulted in lower kokanee survival through the drought period. However, with the reservoir levels recovering and with the success of the tournament and additional management, we are pleased to see better conditions for kokanee at this time."

Anglers are encouraged to harvest small lake trout to continue to maintain balance in the fishery at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Anglers ages 16 and over must possess a valid Colorado fishing license. All Colorado Fishing Regulations and Boating Regulations apply.

Photo: CPW. Gunnison's Greg Frisina is awarded a check by CPW District Wildlife Manager Clayton BonDurant after Frisina earned the first-place prize for the 2024 Blue Mesa Reservoir Lake Trout Harvest Incentive Tournament.
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