Several area residents claimed bragging rights and cash at the end of Ridgway State Park’s monthlong smallmouth bass tournament, which concluded at the end of July.
Chase Nicholson of Ouray claimed top honors by catching the most smallmouth bass — 571 — and netted a $5,000 prize. He also won for smallest fish caught, 3.3 inches, and, further, tied with Tyler Deuschle of Delta for the biggest one caught, 17.2 inches.
The two split the $500 on the table for catching the biggest fish.
Second-place for most fish caught went to Lawrence Cieslewicz of Montrose, who hooked 283. He also struck gold in the grand-prize raffle, winning $2,500.
Chris Cady of Delta turned in 128 bass and placed third for most caught.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife hosts the smallmouth bass tournament each summer at Ridgway Reservoir, allowing anglers to catch as many smallmouth bass from the lake as they can.
The nonnative species is a threat to native fish living downstream in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers; the tournament helps CPW remove the smallmouth bass and keep them out of rivers. The fear is the fish could escape the reservoir through dam infrastructure and migrate into the rivers, which furnish critical habitat for the native fish.
Through the tournament, 79 registered anglers removed nearly 1,500 smallmouth bass from the reservoir, into which the bass had been illegally introduced about a decade ago.
“In the five years of the tournament we have reduced the population of smallmouth bass in the reservoir by 79 percent,” said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for CPW in Montrose and the organizer of the tournament, in a press release announcing tournament winners.
“It is truly amazing what these anglers can do. They are participating directly in wildlife management in Colorado.”
Before the first tournament in 2015, Gardunio estimated there were 3,632 adult smallmouth bass in the reservoir. Adult fish measure 6 inches or more. Now it is estimated that only 763 adult fish live in the reservoir.
“The work by CPW staff along with the help of anglers shows that through targeted management techniques we can enhance survival of rare aquatic species,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for the Southwest Region for CPW.
With assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, CPW was able to offer $12,000 in prize money to tournament participants.
“We are making substantial headway in suppressing the population of smallmouth that were introduced illegally to Ridgway Reservoir,” Gardunio said.
Information for this report came from a CPW press release.