Monday, September 11, 2000
State wildlife officials will continue to take northern pike and other non-native predators from the Yampa River to try to protect native fish.
That was the consensus at a recent meeting in Craig involving local, state and U.S. officials who deal with water and wildlife issues. The non-native fish pike, bass, catfish and crappie will continue to be transplanted in ponds.
"Last year, 350 northern pike adults were removed from the Yampa River from Craig to the Dinosaur National Monument," said Gerry Roehm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
While the state is responsible for removing the fish, the U.S. Wildlife Service is responsible for making sure the native fish recover. Roehm said the state's efforts are likely to pay off.
"(Northern pike) are very large, ferocious predators," he said. "All I can say right now is we have reason to believe that the removal of this predator will benefit all of the native species in the river."
Since they found their way to the Yampa River, pike and the other non-natives have been crowding out or eating up native fish such as the Colorado squawfish, razorback sucker, humpback and bonytail chub.
The Yampa River Basin Partnership was formed between Moffat and Routt counties to develop measures locally to ensure the endangered fish are protected. The group hosted the meeting with state and federal officials in Craig.
Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall chairs the Yampa River Basin Partnership. He said a proposal to kill the non-native fish would not be considered at this time.
"There are fishermen that enjoy fishing pike and small-mouth bass," Beall said. "We'll continue to translocate these non-native fish for five years."
For now, the fish are being put in ponds at the Yampa River State Wildlife Area west of Hayden. There's also a proposal to put them in Elkhead Reservoir north of Craig.
Local, state and U.S. officials also hammered out a plan to increase water storage to help native fish survive during dry times.
"You store water when it's abundant and release it when there's a shortage," Roehm said.
Elkhead Reservoir will be enlarged by 8,000 acre feet to store water for native fish and human use. Also, Beall said, another 2,000 acre feet of water will be released from Steamboat Lake. An acre foot is the amount of water that would cover an acre of ground 1 foot deep.
"We're also looking at building a dam off a tributary of the Yampa for agricultural and fish use," Beall said. A creek north of Craig was identified as a possible location.
The so-called Yampa River Management Plan for the Recovery of Fish will be taken before the public sometime in the near future for additional comment, Beall added.