The Division of Wildlife is urging anglers to harvest pike this summer to help save the dwindling trout population in the reservoir at Spinney Mountain State Park in South Park.
In order to achieve the Division^s goal in managing Spinney^s reservoir as a trophy trout fishery, the Division has approved a rare fishing tournament that gives anglers a great opportunity to harvest northern pike on Spinney^s gold medal waters.
The Colorado Fishing Federation will host the Pike-O-Rama fishing tournament Sunday, July 18 at Spinney Mountain State Park. The tournament, which is full, will include 125 boating teams.
The angler with the biggest pike will go home with an extra $1,250 in prize money. And the Colorado Fishing Federation will donate $500 to the Eagle Claw Youth Fishing Program.
The Division^s aquatic managers plan to continue managing Spinney as a trophy trout fishery, but they need anglers^ help because the reservoir is currently dominated by northern pike, a non-native species stocked in South Park^s reservoirs in the early 1960s and 1970s.
The tournament^s "save a trout, eat a pike" theme was approved by the Division^s aquatic managers to help decrease trout predation by pike.
"Northern pike can eat fish up to three-quarters of their own length," said Phil Goebel, the Division^s assistant statewide aquatic manager. "And they^ve been eating a lot of trout to maintain their size."
The Division^s strategy for Spinney is to decrease the pike population to a manageable 25 to 30 percent. "This will help lessen trout predation by pike," Goebel said. Currently the pike population represents approximately 54 percent of Spinney^s total fish population.
"We^re asking for the public^s help this summer to bring down the pike population and for anglers to catch and eat a pike instead of a trout," Goebel said. "Pike are really tasty, too," he added.
Spinney^s fishing limits allows for anglers to keep 10 pike, providing they take no more than one pike longer than 34 inches.
For many years, the 2,500-surface acre reservoir has been a destination hot spot for both trout and pike anglers. But in the past few years, the Division has had to cut back on its trout stocking efforts.
"When the Division^s fish hatcheries were in full production, there was plenty of trout to stock in Spinney," said Greg Gerlich, the Division^s South Park aquatic biologist. "With the shortage of available trout to stock, Spinney^s pike have really taken over the fishery," he said.
As many as 80 to 85 percent of the anglers who fish Spinney and nearby Eleven Mile target trout and kokanee, Gerlich said. And the 15 to 20 percent of anglers who target pike usually toss them back, he added.
"People don^t realize how easy it is to cook a pike and how good they taste -- that^s why they toss them back," Gerlich said.
With more anglers catching and releasing pike back into Spinney, the pike population and predation on trout has increased, Gerlich said. "That^s why the Division is asking anglers to target pike this season to allow the trout population to rebound," he said.
Spinney reservoir is a unique fishery because it is not open year-round. Anglers cannot fish there in the winter, and the water is also drawn down to a low level, which results in pike having ample time and the opportunity to prey on the other fish species. "With less habitat, their prey species have a hard time hiding or escaping pike," Gerlich said.
The condition of Spinney^s pike is another reason why the Division is asking anglers to help control their numbers. "We have too many pike and they are now in competition with one another," Gerlich said.
Pike predominately eat suckers, but due to the amount of large pike in Spinney, and their ability to sustain their size, they have totally exhausted the sucker population and are now left to devour trout and other species. This was evident by a recent net sampling.
Gerlich said they discovered pike were eating just about anything they could find in Spinney; craw fish, darnel flies, and even salamanders. "This has lead to the pike being in rather poor condition," Gerlich said.
Today, the Division^s management approach for Spinney has shifted away from stocking fingerling trout. Spinney recently received 18,000 catchable sized trout -- 9 to 12 inches. Subcatchable sized trout intended for Spinney went
to nearby Antero Reservoir instead.
"By stocking only catchable trout in Spinney we feel this will increase the opportunity for trout to avoid predation by pike," Gerlich said.
Antero Reservoir will receive 150,000 subcatchable trout -- and Eleven Mile^s reservoir will receive 17,000 catchable and 150,000 subcatchable trout as well as kokanee salmon.
Ultimately, Gerlich said, the Division would like to manage Eleven Mile reservoir more as a trophy pike fishery rather than Spinney reservoir.
"With the help of the Colorado Fishing Federation^s pike tournament and anglers this season, we can begin to transform Spinney reservoir back into a historic gold medal trout fishery," Gerlich said.