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Blue Mesa Reservoir Fishery Management
Blue Mesa Reservoir Fishery Management
Kokanee salmon under water

Anglers: Help us maintain balance at the Blue Mesa Reservoir fishery 

Kokanee fry survival has been reduced by increasing predation from lake trout since lake trout began naturally reproducing within Blue Mesa Reservoir beginning in the early 1990's. Anglers value both kokanee and lake trout angling opportunities. Kokanee provide the greatest draw for overall catch and harvest; lake trout provide the greatest draw for overall trophy potential. Kokanee have provided up to 85% of the May through October angler catch, while lake trout over 50 pounds and 44 inches in length have been caught at Blue Mesa.

Unsustainable levels of predation by lake trout can lead to declines in kokanee abundance and in lake trout growth and body condition. CPW implemented lake trout netting efforts beginning in 2009 to sustain kokanee populations while still working to provide a trophy lake trout fishery. Additional harvest of lake trout is needed to return to historic kokanee abundance - increased removal of primarily smaller, younger lake trout would allow for persistence of kokanee and would leave more trophy lake trout for anglers. 

To better utilize angler harvest to keep lake trout population growth in check, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is starting a harvest incentive tournament with $10,000 in prize money. The good news is that by increasing harvest of smaller lake trout, kokanee fishing and egg-take opportunities can be maintained while allowing  more lake trout to grow to trophy size.

How the lake trout harvest incentive tournament works 

Smaller lake trout on iceFrom Feb. 1 through July 31, 2021, CPW is sponsoring the harvest incentive tournament. Anglers who harvest lake trout have multiple opportunities to collect prize money.

  • Lake trout must be 24 inches or less to qualify. 
  • Anglers will turn in heads of lake trout. Cut heads off behind the gills. 
  • Collection points: Blue Mesa at the Iola, Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramps; and CPW offices in Gunnison (300 W. New York) and Montrose (2300 S. Townsend).
  • CPW has tagged fish, but anglers won’t know if they’ve caught a tagged fish.
  • Prizes awarded in three categories:
    1. Tagged fish: $250 each. 
    2. Most fish caught: 1st place -$1,000; 2nd place - $500; 3rd place - $250. 
    3. Raffle: Anglers receive one ticket for every head; 20 tickets will be drawn, each worth $200.

The Rules

  • Anglers register by turning in lake trout heads. 
  • Lake trout must be harvested legally from BMR.
  • Only heads from lake trout 24 inches or less are counted. CPW has determined head size for 24-inch fish.
  • Anglers can turn in as many heads as they wish, but may not pool catch with other anglers. Pooling will result in disqualification.
  • Plastic bags for the heads and data slips for angler information are provided at the collection stations. Use only pencil for data slips.
  • Unless otherwise noted, heads can be turned in only at approved collection stations. 
  • After head is removed, fish must be prepared for human consumption.
  • Employees of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service are not eligible to participate in the tournament.  
  • Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the tournament.

The daily bag limit for lake trout under 32 inches at BMR is unlimited. Only one fish more than 32 inches can be harvested.

The daily bag limit for kokanee is five fish per day, and 10 fish in possession.

For more details on the tournament or to get more information on Blue Mesa Reservoir fisheries management, please contact CPW Aquatic Biologist Dan Brauch at or call 970-641-7070.

Angler Resources

Complete information on Blue Mesa Reservoir (BMR) fisheries management