Routt County Pike management, as well as bag limits, were controversial topics for local anglers at a Division of Wildlife roundtable meeting at the Carpenter Ranch on Wednesday.
The issues were on a list of 11 preliminary regulations that the DOW will eventually propose to the state Wildlife Commission for the next five years of fishing law and practice. Officials are collecting local input to make sure the new regulations reflect what the public wants.
Pike are not native to Colorado and eat native fish, including endangered species like the bonytail chub and the Colorado squawfish.
Officials are instructed by the management plan for the Yampa River Basin to remove pike from the Yampa River to protect endangered fish.
Two regulations in the proposal would remove bag limits on northern pike. One would eliminate caps on catching and keeping pike and small-mouth bass from the Yampa River. The other would do away with all pike limits in the Western Slope.
Local angler Rick Hammel disagreed with the regulation and criticized the DOW's actions to remove the pike from the Yampa river.
Last year, the DOW spent between $20,000 to $30,000 to remove 80 pike from the Yampa River, DOW spokesman Bill Elmbald said. That's roughly $250 to $375 a fish.
Elmbald, who was leading the discussion, admitted that pike could never be completely removed from the river.
"The Yampa River Management Plan asks us to control this species," he explained. However, Elmbald admitted that removing the pike isn't a benefit to people who just want to catch fish.
"We can ruin the fishery and make some improvement for the endangered fish," he said.
Hammel said that removing bag limits, on top of the DOW's efforts to eradicate the pike, is too much. People enjoy the opportunity to catch a pike, he said.
"The pike population is already decreasing, so what's the problem?" Hammel asked.
Hammel suggested changing the regulation to allow anglers to have no bag limits on pike less than 36 inches long. Pike over 36 inches could be one per angler.
Bag limits on trout also proved to be a tough topic. For the Western Slope, the proposed regulations would allow anglers to keep four trout from a lake or stream. The current rule allows anglers to keep four trout from a lake and two from a stream. That allows people to keep six all together, even though the rule was meant for no more than four.
"We're checking coolers in camps and we check out fish at check stations. We have no way of knowing where those fish came from," DOW Area Manager Jim Haskins said.
Bob Streeter, representing Trout Unlimited, wants to see all bag limits set at two fish instead of four. He said that most anglers catch and release fish, and the ones who don't keep an average of about two.
A two-trout bag limit would send a message to the public that the fish are a valuable and limited resource, and guarantee high numbers of trout in Colorado waters, Streeter said.
Streeter kept the same stance on a regulation allowing for a four-trout bag limit and eight in possession, which was aimed at people who were going on overnight fishing trips.
Hammel is against low bag limits. "We'd be cutting our throats by discouraging people from the sport," he said.
DOW Area Manager Libbie Miller suggested the possession limit be set at four fish and stressed that more education is needed for the regulation to be effective.
Elmbald noted all of the comments.
-- To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org