Invaded by Smallmouth Bass, Miramonte Reservoir to Be Drained
by Gus Jarvis
Aug 02, 2012 | 3096 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CRAYFISH HUNTERS – Zoey and Zane Truelock of Norwood showed off their first crayfish catch of the day on Monday morning at Miramonte Reservoir. The popular trout and crayfish destination is being devastated by an invasion of smallmouth bass, which were illegally introduced sometime over the past few years. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)

CRAYFISH HUNTERS – Zoey and Zane Truelock of Norwood showed off their first crayfish catch of the day on Monday morning at Miramonte Reservoir. The popular trout and crayfish destination is being devastated by an invasion of smallmouth bass, which were illegally introduced sometime over the past few years. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)

slideshow

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – After smallmouth bass were illegally stocked in Miramonte Reservoir sometime in the past few years, with a subsequent population boom, Colorado Parks and Wildlife must now eradicate smallmouth bass by utilizing an organic pesticide to kill all the fish in the popular fishing destination and then rebuild the renowned trout fishery.

The advent of smallmouth bass in Miramonte Reservoir, which is located 10 miles south of Norwood, is a devastating blow to one of the most productive stillwater trout fisheries in Colorado where anglers regularly go to catch quality-size rainbow and brown trout. According to Parks and Wildlife, Miramonte accounts for about 20,000 angler days each year, which contributes nearly $1.5 million to the San Miguel County.

The Parks and Wildlife operation to kill all fish populations in the reservoir to eradicate smallmouth bass is tentatively scheduled for late summer or fall of 2013. Until then, the agency is implementing an emergency order that removes all bag and possession limits on smallmouth bass at the reservoir.

“We really don’t like to have to do this sort of thing,” Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski said. “It’s pretty expensive and it takes a lot of manpower and planning. Smallmouth bass will have a negative impact on the renowned trout fishery. They could also get downstream into the San Miguel and Dolores rivers, predating on the native fish down there.

“We know there is already bass in the Dolores river, and they are contributing to the decline in population of native species,” he said, referring to the roundtail chub, the bluehead sucker and the flannelmouth sucker. “We are doing everything we can to protect those species.”

Lewandowski said Parks and Wildlife officials said the bass were introduced to Miramonte sometime over the past two to three years. Since then, the smallmouth population has taken hold in the reservoir, and now accounts for 40 percent of Miramonte’s total fish population.

“Every year we stock 50- to 60-thousand fingerlings of rainbow trout and 15- to 20-thousand brown trout,” Lewandowski said. “This shows you how fast smallmouth can reproduce. It’s pretty scary. They have already changed the reservoir, and will continue to do so.”

Senior aquatic biologist for the southwest region of Parks and Wildlife John Alves said Miramonte is managed as a “put and grow” trout fishery that provides anglers an excellent fishing opportunity at a low cost.

“The bass are now a top predator in the lake,” Alves said. “They compete with trout for food and space, and consume trout and crayfish. If left alone, the bass could eventually devastate Miramonte as a trout fishery.

“Furthermore, the habitat, prey base and water temperature will not support a quality bass fishery in the long term. So, once an illegally stocked fish population has become established, the only recourse is to start over by using a fish pesticide to kill all the fish in a lake.”

   

The reservoir will be drawn down to a small pool and the chemical Rotenone will be applied to the remaining water and feeder streams to kill all the fish. Rotenone breaks down quickly in the environment and poses no threat to vegetation or non-aquatic species. Biologists will restock the lake with fish as soon as the pesticide has dissipated. The operation is expected to cost more than $100,000, not including staff time, which is unfortunate, said Area Wildlife Manager Renzo DelPiccolo, because that money should have gone to other important aquatic habitat projects.    

People who illegally move fish into lakes, ponds and rivers are not only committing a criminal act, they are endangering native species, stealing a resource and recreational opportunity from thousands of anglers and negatively impacting the local community, DelPiccolo said.

Anyone who has information about illegal fish stocking at Miramonte Reservoir or at any other water in Colorado should contact the Parks and Wildlife office in Montrose at 970/252-6000, or call Operation Game Thief at 877/265-6648. Tips can be made anonymously and cash rewards are possible.





gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com or @GusJarvis       

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet