Ridgway Reservoir hosts free smallmouth bass fishing tournament July 11-19 | SummitDaily.com

Ridgway Reservoir hosts free smallmouth bass fishing tournament July 11-19

A smallmouth bass, the quarry at a free fishing tournament on Ridgway Reservoir from July 11-19.
Getty Images / Special to the Daily | iStockphoto

Ridgeway Reservoir fishing tournmanet

What: A weeklong fishing tournament for smallmouth bass anglers, with no registration fees and $5,000 in prizes

When: Daily from July 11-19

Where: Ridgway Reservoir, Ridgway State Park in Ridgway

Cost: Free

For more information about the fishing tournament or camping options, call Ridgway State Park at 970-626-5822 or see the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website at http://www.cpw.state.co.us.

For Colorado anglers, it’s a rare opportunity to keep as many fish as you catch. Next weekend, you can even win a boat at the same time.

From July 11 to July 19, Colorado fishermen can vie for more than $5,000 in prizes at a weeklong smallmouth bass fishing tournament, hosted by Ridgway State Park in Ouray County.

The park and attached reservoir are a solid 230 miles to the south of Summit County, bordered by the San Juan Mountains and Ouray’s historic silver mines. But, with prizes ranging from lures and gear to a motorized fishing rig, it’s worth the trek.

There is no registration fee for the tournament, and the contest is open to all anglers who have a Colorado fishing license. The top prize will be a fishing boat complete with engine, trailer and life jackets. Other prizes include fishing rod combos and lures — the type especially suited for smallmouth bass anglers.

To prep for the tournament, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers will tag 10 smallmouth bass of all sizes. Every smallmouth bass an angler harvests can lead to a prize. The tags are not visible from boats or the shore, and all smallmouth bass will be checked at the boat ramp to determine prize eligibility. Live fish cannot be checked. Anglers are automatically registered in the tournament when they present smallmouth bass at the check-in area at the boat ramp.

Controlling the population

Smallmouth bass are plentiful in Ridgway Reservoir, said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for CPW in the Ridgway area. The fish is an invasive species, and officials encourage anglers to catch as many as possible.

Over the years, smallmouth bass have greatly impacted native fish at the reservoir and nearby waterways. These native fish are especially adapted to the desert rivers of Colorado and are found no other place in the world. The species — including Colorado Pikeminnow, the Razorback Sucker, the Humpback Chub and the Bonytail Chub — are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

All boaters are reminded that they must go through the aquatic nuisance inspection station before launching a craft.

Along with dock space, Ridgway has several camping options to give anglers an early start in the morning. The park is home to 283 campsites and three yurts. The daily entry fee to the park is $7 per vehicle, with campsites ranging in price from $18 to $26 per night.

To catch a smallmouth bass

Due to the species’ invasive nature, there are no bag or possession limits on smallmouth bass at Ridgway Reservoir.

“The water temperatures in mid-July should be ideal for pursuing smallmouth bass at Ridgway,” Gardunio said.

This species becomes very active as the water warms up to about 55 degrees, he explained. Anglers should target rock outcroppings, submerged logs and any prominent structures that smallmouth bass favor.

“They are fun to catch and they are very good eating,” he said. Smallmouth bass are ambush predators. They hide near cover — rocks, boulders, vegetation, tree stumps — then ambush their prey. Fish along the shore, and use bait that resembles minnows, crayfish and worms.

Powerbait is not a good choice for bass.

Cast crank baits and spinners near cover, and slowly reel the lures past ambush points. Soft plastic worms and tube jigs can be allowed to sink near cover, then twitch the bait with your rod tip to give it action

According to CPW experts, smallmouth bass are nutritious, delicious, easy to prepare and make a great meal. By keeping and consuming smallmouth bass, anglers can contribute greatly to the management of Colorado fisheries.

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