Wild Colorado: Fish regulations change at Green Mountain Reservoir | SummitDaily.com

Wild Colorado: Fish regulations change at Green Mountain Reservoir

Observations by Colorado Division of Wildlife officials have prompted fishing regulation changes at Green Mountain Reservoir to try to thin the population of lake trout, a top predator.

Anglers can now take up to eight lake trout in addition to the four trout of any kind allowed under the previous regulation.

The changes, which went into effect Jan. 1 and will remain in place until biological monitoring or sportsman issues prompt another modification, are meant to improve the fishery’s diversity.

“It takes a few years to see if you’ve succeeded in making the change in the population dynamic you were after,” district fish biologist Jon Ewert said.

Lake trout in the reservoir are looking ragged – not as large or healthy as they could be, district wildlife manager Sean Shepherd said. Because they’re smaller and skinnier than usual, Ewert and others suspect the lake trout are outstripping their prey base – something they’re known to do.

It often happens when reservoir levels are higher than historic averages, which provides ideal conditions for an effective spawn. Ewert is noticing the same phenomenon in most of his district’s lakes, but Green Mountain Reservoir is the first that’s seen altered regulations. He may try to institute the same thing at Williams Fork Reservoir and Lake Granby, but changes wouldn’t occur until January 2012.

“We basically have a bunch of teenage (lake trout) and they’re all hungry and they’re all competing and it’s tough for them to grow much bigger,” Shepherd said.

Ewert said the reservoir’s lake trout are still 12 to 18 inches, which is “perfect for eating.”

“We encourage people to take advantage of the opportunity to harvest a generous number of fish,” Ewert said, adding that the species is tougher to catch than rainbow trout, a stocked fish that hangs out in shallower water. Lake trout are often suspended in deep water, maybe at 70 feet when the reservoir bottom is at 120 feet, so they sometimes take specialized equipment and techniques to fish.

When anglers aren’t catching many of the 300,000 Kokanee salmon stocked in the reservoir last year, it’s another sign that the predator-prey balance is off, Ewert said. Kokanee are the preferred food for lake trout.

“We used to see big Kokanee salmon in the fishery and right now, we’re just not,” Shepherd said.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in the Junior Duck Stamp Program, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that starts each fall and finishes in the spring.

It’s a free art and science program designed to teach students about wetlands habitat and waterfowl conservation. They learn about their subject and communicate it visually with an entry to the duck stamp art competition, submitted to the state coordinator.

Students are judged in four groups, according to grade level, at the state level, with three first-, second- and third-place entries selected in each group. A “best of show” is then selected by the judges from among the first-place winners. Best of show selections from each state are submitted to the national duck stamp competition.

The national contest winning selection is used to create the official Junior Duck Stamp for next year and are sold by the U.S. Postal Service for $5 each. Proceeds support environmental education and provide awards and scholarships for students, teachers and school participating in the program.

Entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2011.

For more information, contact Colorado State Coordinator Seth Beres at (303) 289-0867 or visit http://www.fws.gov/juniorduck/ArtContest.htm.

– Daily News Staff Report

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is seeking original artwork entries for the 2011 Colorado Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest – the deadline is 4 p.m. March 4.

This year’s focus species is the green-winged teal.

The competition was implemented in 1990 and provides funding to conserve wetlands for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife. Waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older are required by state law to purchase a waterfowl stamp validation annually before hunting. In addition to hunters, many collectors aid in wetland conservation by purchasing collector stamps and prints created from the winning entry.

The green-winged teal is a colorful duck found in Colorado primarily during fall and spring migration, with lower numbers during the breeding season and winter.

Artists must submit a 13-inch high by 18-inch wide, full color original artwork for the contest. There is a $50 fee for each entry.

For more information and to obtain an application packet, visit http://bit.ly/gkIQMn.

Colorado Division of Wildlife offices have received recent reports of dogs chasing wildlife, especially deer, and the agency’s officials remind pet owners it’s their responsibility to keep their pets under control.

In winter, deer are week, gathering in small groups and are easy targets for dogs. Chasing them uses up energy and makes them more vulnerable to not surviving winter. Big game animals can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight in winter, and female big game animals are pregnant at this time of year – requiring energy conservation.

According to the Division of Wildlife, many dog owners don’t believe their pets chase wildlife. But when some dogs see large animals they may act on their instincts and give chase. The best way to keep dogs under control is to secure them when owners aren’t present.

In mid-January in the Ridgway area, two deer died after being chased by dogs. One deer was killed by the dogs; the other had to be euthanized. The dog owner was ticketed and paid a fine of $276. Fines, however, can total more than $1,000 depending on the circumstances. The incident was reported by neighbors who observed the attacks.

Dogs observed chasing or harassing wildlife can be shot by law enforcement officers. A landowner can shoot a dog that is harassing livestock. Most cities and counties in Colorado also have leash laws that require keeping pets secure.

Residents should also note that feeding big game is illegal, because it concentrates them and makes them easier targets for dogs and predators, and allows disease to spread.

Additionally, cats pose problems because they kill birds. Their time outdoors should be limited and their collar should have a bell to alert birds of the cat’s approach.

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