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Smallmouth Bass at Ridgway Reservoir
Smallmouth Bass at Ridgway Reservoir

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​We need your help: Please keep all the smallmouth bass you catch at Ridgway Reservoir

Be a partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in fisheries management. 

CPW is asking anglers to catch and keep all smallmouth bass that they catch. While some anglers object, please take a moment to read this explanation to gain a full understanding of the difficult issues facing CPW and Colorado anglers.

​Why should I keep smallmouth bass?

CPW strives to provide the best fishing opportunities that are appropriate for each body of water in the state. Biologists must carefully consider a variety of factors: native fish species, water quality, water temperature, available forage, the needs of water users, how water will be used, federal and state laws, and more.

Because of the native fish which live in the rivers downstream of the reservoir, bass are not a suitable species for Ridgway Reservoir. Smallmouth bass, which were illegally introduced 5-10 years ago, can escape and survive in rivers downstream. Because smallmouth bass are predators, they will consume significant numbers of endangered native fish. Bass have escaped from other impoundments in Colorado and they are having serious negative effects on native fish elsewhere.

You can help us protect native species

The native fish are especially adapted to the desert rivers of Colorado and are found no other place in the world. These species -- the Colorado Pikeminnow, the Razorback Sucker, the Humpback Chub and the ​Bonytail Chub -- are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency.

One of the missions of Colorado Parks and Wildlife is to protect native species and to work in cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service on native species issues. Because we are committed to sustaining native species that are a valuable part of Colorado's ecology and natural history, CPW cannot manage for smallmouth bass at Ridgway Reservoir. 

Are there other issues to be concerned about?

Yes. Because the native fish are listed as endangered, if they are threatened by smallmouth bass the federal government could require water to be released from the reservoir in a manner that might be detrimental to the needs of downstream users -– ranchers, farmers, cities, towns and businesses.

Illegal stocking hurts Colorado's anglers

Illegal stocking of fish is another significant issue that affects all Colorado anglers. In western Colorado, not every body of water or waterway is suitable for every species of fish. CPW must remedy fisheries where illegal stocking has taken place. That means the agency must expend significant resources that otherwise could be used to improve angling opportunities elsewhere. In the fall of 2013, CPW spent more than $100,000 to eliminate smallmouth bass and restore the renowned trout fishery at Miramonte Reservoir in San Miguel County.

The effects of illegally introduced smallmouth bass and other non-native species reach far beyond Ridgway Reservoir.

How can I help with the situation at Ridgway Reservoir? 

Please, keep all of the smallmouth bass that you catch. The fish are nutritious, delicious, easy to prepare and make a great meal. And there are no bag or possession limits on smallmouth bass at Ridgway Reservoir. If your family and friends are anglers, please inform them of the issues at the reservoir. 

By keeping and consuming smallmouth bass you will be contributing greatly to the management of Colorado fisheries.

How do I catch smallmouth bass?

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 

There are no bag or possession limits on smallmouth bass.

Learn more about catching smallmouth bass​.

Are there other places in western Colorado where I can fish for bass species?

Yes. CPW actively manages several waters for largemouth bass -- the most popular game-fish in the United States. CPW fisheries managers are aware of the popularity of bass fishing and the agency is actively working to find other suitable areas where largemouth bass can be stocked.

You can find largemouth bass at these waters: Crawford Reservoir, Delta County; Echo Canyon Reservoir, Archuleta County; Totten Reservoir, Montezuma County; Rifle Gap Reservoir, Harvey Gap Reservoir and Elkhead Reservoir – all in Garfield County. 

Largemouth bass do not present problems for native fish because they cannot survive in the cold water of Colorado's rivers and some reservoirs, including Ridgway.