If you feel that the Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout fishing on Blue Mesa Reservoir has been a bit slow lately, the fishery may be off balance. But rest assured, the Colorado Department of Wildlife announced earlier this week that it is developing plans to remove small- to medium-sized lake trout from the reservoir this fall to balance the predator-prey relationship.
While catching a monster lake trout out of Blue Mesa is popular, the DOW says that 40 percent of the anglers that visit the water are anglers specifically fishing for salmon (15 percent rainbow trout and 8 percent for lake trout). According to a DOW creel survey, the catch of Kokanee has declined from 175,000 in 1993 to 30,000 in 2008 with rainbows dropping from 74,000 in 1998 to 10,000 in 2008.
The catch of lake trout has increased from about 1,700 per year in the late 90s to about 8,500 in 2008. The balance, if these numbers are accurate, is certainly off balance.
“We’re losing Kokanee and we’re losing the potential for long-term production of trophy-sized lake trout,” DOW Senior Aquatic Biologist John Alves said last week. “Without a strong population of Kokanee salmon there is no possibility of growing lake trout to trophy size. There is room for all the species in the lake, but careful management is necessary.”
While the DOW is planning a lake trout removal program during their spawning season (October and November) and plans to take several years to do so, anglers can help this process by keeping their lake trout catch.
In 2008, according to a DOW creel survey, anglers released half of the approximately 8,600 lake trout they caught. “In an environment like Blue Mesa Reservoir, where lake trout reproduction is significant, angler harvest of lake trout will help the DOW maintain the balance between lake trout and Kokanee populations,” Alves said. “If anglers keep the fish they catch the DOW probably wouldn’t need to remove fish. Plus, they’ll get some great meals.”
Well, you heard it right here. Keep your lake trout when fishing Blue Mesa Reservoir – the fate of the Kokanee and the enjoyment of Kokanee anglers rests on your shoulders and your ability to keep your catch. And if you are wondering what I would use to search out those lake trout? Don’t bother. None of my no-good angling friends with boats have taken me out on the reservoir in search of a trophy lake trout. I am no help in that department.