The 2022 Elkhead Reservoir (Moffat and Routt counties) Fishing Classic tournament will take place June 18 through June 26. This tournament will target smallmouth bass and northern pike. Anglers will earn an angler ticket for every smallmouth bass and northern pike that they catch from this reservoir and turn in during the tournament. One northern pike and one smallmouth bass will be tagged internally and released immediately prior to the tournament with individually numbered 2022 passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. Fish will be checked for tags at the CPW fish scanning station. If the 2022 tagged smallmouth bass and/or northern pike are/is caught during the tournament, the respective angler(s) will receive a cash award (check) of $1,500 per fish on the day the fish is caught. If only one or neither of the 2022 PIT tagged fish are caught during the tournament, the remaining cash awards (checks) for this category (either one or both awards) will be drawn for and presented by CPW during the angler ticket drawing at the conclusion of the tournament on Sunday, June 26.
At the conclusion of the tournament, two $750 checks will be awarded to the angler(s) who has/have caught and turned in the most northern pike and/or the most smallmouth bass across the nine day tournament.
Additional prizes totaling $4,500 will also be awarded daily after 5:00pm (except this time will be earlier on the last day of the tournament-see note below) in the following categories:
There is no bag or possession limit for northern pike or smallmouth bass at Elkhead Reservoir.
Tournament angling will begin at 6:30am on Saturday, June 18. Anglers need not register in advance of tournament angling, but anglers fishing prior to the 6:30am start of the tournament on June 18 will be disqualified. Tournament angling will conclude on Sunday, June 26. Anglers must have their catch of northern pike and smallmouth bass for that day turned into the CPW fish scanning station by 3:00pm on June 26 to qualify for tournament awards/prizes. Fish checked-in at the CPW fish scanning station after 3:00pm on June 26 will not be considered for awards/prizes for that day and/or the tournament overall. There are no daily time restrictions on angling within the official tournament period, other than the tournament start time of 6:30am on June 18 and final check-in of fish by 3:00pm on June 26.
With the exception of the last day of the tournament, Sunday, June 26, anglers must have their catch of northern pike and smallmouth bass turned into the CPW fish scanning station by 5:00pm on the day the fish are caught (so the fish can be scanned for PIT tags) to qualify for the daily “most fish caught” prize. Fish caught after 5:00pm must be presented at the CPW fish scanning station before 9:00am the following morning to be entered into the current day’s prize tally.
Participants must register, and this can be completed when anglers first present their fish at the CPW fish scanning station located at the Elkhead Reservoir State Park maintenance shop near the Park entrance. Youth under 16 can fish without a license. For those residents 16-17 and over 64, annual fishing licenses are $10.23. For resident anglers 18-64, annual fishing licenses are $36.71. Anglers ages 16 and over must possess a valid Colorado fishing license. All Colorado Fishing Regulations and Boating Regulations apply. It is recommended that anglers purchase their 2022 fishing license in advance of the tournament as licenses are not typically available at the reservoir.
There are 46 campsites available at Elkhead Reservoir State Park ranging from $22 to $30/night. Reservations are currently required. The daily entry fee for vehicles into the park is $9.00.
For more information regarding the Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic, please see the Tournament Rules and Tournament Poster and/or call the Yampa River State Park at 970-276-2061.
Photos below show results of two of the 2021 Elkhead tournament participants.
Despite only having 25 anglers participate, the Ridgway State Park tournament was a success with a total of 1690 smallmouth bass removed. This removal was driven by two anglers; Chase Nicholson and Lawrence Cieslewicz removed 936 and 649 smallmouth each for first ($5,000) and second place ($3,000), respectively. These two have won first and second place three times in a row now, and are the key to success with the tournament.
Prior to the tournament we marked and released 113 SMB adults (over 6" in length). Of these 75 were returned by anglers, allowing us to generate the population estimate data below. Our estimate indicates that this year's tournament reduced the adult population by 66% from 1222 to 336 individuals. This final estimate indicates that we have reduced the population by over 90% from it's high of nearly 3900 adult smallmouth bass in 2016.
The tournament is meeting its goal of reducing this illegally introduced population of smallmouth bass to limit their probability of moving downstream into critical endangered species habitat in the Gunnison River where they would be likely to do harm. To further this goal, a collaborative effort with USFWS and the water users will be installing an escapement barrier around the spillway this winter that will further isolate this population. Thank you to the Area, Park and Aquatic staff that have been integral to the tournament success.
Smallmouth bass and northern pike are not compatible with endangered fish recovery in waters downstream of both reservoirs. Smallmouth bass and northern pike can escape from reservoirs and/or be moved illegally to waters where these species can predate upon native fishes and compete with natives for food and habitat. Anglers are asked to catch and keep all smallmouth bass and northern pike that they catch from these reservoirs. CPW reminds anglers that is illegal to move live fish from one water to another in western Colorado.
If the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program fails to make sufficient progress at recovering the four endangered fish species (Colorado pikeminnow, bonytail, razorback sucker, and humpback chub), all water users on the West Slope will likely be required to consult with the federal government if they need to use water for irrigation, to fill a pond, or to supply drinking water.
Participating in these fishing tournaments will help assure a variety of future sportfish opportunities in Elkhead and Ridgway reservoirs. For example, with the help of local anglers, CPW has stocked: over 229,000 juvenile bluegill, 1,067,071 juvenile largemouth bass, and over 1,150 adult largemouth bass in Elkhead Reservoir since 2016. These species are compatible with native fish recovery and conservation efforts. In 2021, CPW installed 40 artificial fish habitat structures in Elkhead Reservoir to provide additional habitat for sportfish (Photo 1).
Photo 1: CPW employees installing fish habitat structures at Elkhead Reservoir.
The recently installed fish habitat structures increase the amount of cover habitat available for black crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass in the reservoir and provide additional productive angling locations for those species.
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 when managing fisheries, including: impacts to native fishes, water quality, habitat availability, size of water to be stocked, how water will be used, forage fish availability, federal and state laws, etc. Please help CPW manage YOUR fisheries by working with our biologists and not against them by illegally stocking fish!
Illegal stocking of fish is a 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. This means the agency must expend significant resources that otherwise could be used to improve angling opportunities elsewhere. For example, 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. In the spring of 2021, CPW spent more than $35,000 to eradicate northern pike and restore the warmwater and seasonal rainbow trout fishery at Mack Mesa Reservoir in Mesa County.
If you have information about illegal stocking of fish, please
contact a CPW office immediately, or call
Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Tips can be given anonymously and rewards are possible.