Thursday, February 14, 2013

New info from DOW fisheries surveys!

Each summer and fall , Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife – Ben Swigle and associates – conduct gill net and electroshock surveys of Colorado lakes, seeking hints on the quality of the coming season.  Water levels and prospects of irrigation drawdowns will trump just about everything else this year, and not all lakes are surveyed each year, but this year’s surveys show promising walleye population in Boyd, continued improvement in Lon Hagler as a trophy bass lake, and a healthy saugeye and walleye population at Lonetree, albeit at the expense of a once-good wiper fishery.  We also know there were substantial hits to smaller tributaries of Front Range trout streams, but nothing definitive.

For  a complete listing of DOW surveys, click here.  Lakes and rivers with 2012 surveys are indicated with an “UPDATED” flag.  
Want to know about catfish or panfish numbers?  Gill net surveys aren’t too good at evaluating those species, so you’ll just have to dunk your worms and tell the rest of us how you did. Those who fish for bluegill will tell you that recent reasonable water levels have led to some good, consecutive spawning seasons, but we’re pretty gloomy over what will happen this spring.

Ben’s 2012 survey at Carter, where the DOW is working to re-establish balance after a pretty miserable approach where walleye ate through the stocked trout and kokanee, unfortunately shows new regulations have yet to impact walleye abundance.  Starting last year anglers were allowed to keep three walleye less than 21 inches, so walleye would grow faster and trout catches would increase.  Let’s hope that pays off.

Lonetree is now being managed for walleye, saugeye and largemouth, reflecting the desires of angler surveys.  More than 100,000 saugee fingerlings and 2.1 million walleye fry were stocked in 2011 and 2012, and gillnet surveyed showed saugeye outnumbering walleye by nearly 2 to 1.  There are some big wiper in the reservoir, but no plans to stock them in the future.

The DOW report notes that “nearly 2,200 square feet of spawning habitat preferred by bass, crappie and bluegill were constructed” at Lonetree in 2011, with a large portion of the funding coming from … The Loveland Fishing Club. 

At Boyd Lake, the survey has showed walleye abundance triple what it was in 206, but down slightly from 2011.  But more than half of the fish caught in DOW nets exceeded 15 inches.  That improvement in walleye numbers probably led to the drop in white bass, but the DOW has stocked more white bass and Ben’s report indicated white bass numbers continue to climb. One reason there's been such success on the ice this winter:  a late fall stocking added 20,000 10"-plus trout to the lake.

2013 prospects are worrisome, with the continued low snowpack in the high country, coupled with last year’s drawdowns.  Those who took part in the North Sterling Reservoir outing last year will be relieved there wasn’t the TOTAL fishkill expected last fall.  But the drastic drawdown, coupled with a blue-green algae bloom and high winds, created a “perfect storm” for a mid-September fish kill.  A DOW survey turned up no signs of bluegill, crappie, largemouth, channel cat, northern pike or freshwater drum, and there was a 77 percent decrease in the overall number of fish caught after the fishkill.  Let’s hope for a better 2013.
Again, for a complete listing of DOW surveys, click here.  Lakes and rivers with 2012 surveys are indicated with an “UPDATED” flag. 

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