Cast a line, catch a prize during Blue Mesa lake trout tourney

The lake trout tournament at Blue Mesa Reservoir continues through July 31 at Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison. (Submitted photo/CPW)

The Second Annual Blue Mesa Reservoir Lake Trout Tournament at Blue Mesa Reservoir is in full swing and anglers have plenty of time to fish for $10,000 in prize money.

The reservoir is just up the road from Montrose, off U.S. 50.

The tournament, sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is free and no registration is required. The tournament continues through July 31 and everyone who participates has a chance to win cash prizes. The goal of the tournament is to maintain adequate kokanee fry survival by limiting predation from lake trout; and, in turn, to maintain quality kokanee fishing opportunities.

Abundant kokanee are also the key to maintaining excellent lake trout growth and condition to support trophy lake trout opportunities at the reservoir.

The tournament started Feb. 1 and so far about 50 anglers have participated and about 900 lake trout heads have been turned in. One tagged fish has been caught in 2021 and the lucky angler will receive $250. There are about 20 more tagged fish in the reservoir.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking anglers to be our partners in helping to manage the renowned Blue Mesa Reservoir fishery,” said Dan Brauch, aquatic biologist for CPW in Gunnison.

“We know we can have an excellent kokanee fishery and a trophy lake trout fishery, but we need to continue our work for both species and we need the help of Colorado’s anglers.”

Anglers are asked to harvest smaller lake trout; only heads from lake trout that are under 24 inches in length accepted in the tournament. Last year the 339 anglers who participated caught 4,055 of the target-sized lake trout.

Here’s how the tournament works: Anglers who catch and keep lake trout 24 inches or smaller will remove the heads and place them in a plastic bag provided at one of three boat ramps at the reservoir: Iola, Elk Creek and Lake Fork. Heads can also be turned in at CPW’s offices in Gunnison (300 W. New York Ave.) or Montrose (2300 S. Townsend Ave., U.S. Highway 550).

Cash prizes will be awarded in three categories at the conclusion of the tournament:

1) Anglers catching the most fish: First place, $1,000; second place, $500; third place, $250.

2) Anglers will be entered in a raffle for every lake trout head turned in. A total of 20 winners will be selected and each will receive $200.

3) CPW has tagged about 20 fish in the reservoir but anglers won’t know if they’ve caught one. CPW will scan the heads later to check for tags; those who caught tagged fish will receive $250 for each.

Winning anglers will be contacted in early August.

Unchecked lake-trout population growth caused significant declines in kokanee abundance in previous decades, Brauch said. Recently, the number of predatory lake trout has been reduced and kokanee abundance has improved. CPW research shows that smaller lake trout, those 24 inches and smaller, consume the most kokanee. Consequently, the tournament is focused on removing those fish.

“We appreciate angler participation in maintaining balance in the Blue Mesa fishery,” Brauch said. “Working together, we will continue to provide quality opportunities for both kokanee and trophy lake trout.”

Maintaining abundant kokanee supports quality-fishing opportunities for kokanee and provides a source of kokanee eggs for restocking needs at up to 25 waters in Colorado. Abundant kokanee are also essential for maintaining continued growth of trophy lake trout at Blue Mesa Reservoir.

For more information about fishing at Blue Mesa Reservoir, including how to catch lake trout, research studies and management planning go to: https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/BlueMesaReservoirFisheryManagement.aspx.

You may also call the Gunnison CPW office at 970-641-7060.

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