Reservoir officials ‘perched’ on a controversy |

Reservoir officials ‘perched’ on a controversy

— The Division of Wildlife is hearing some strong opinions from local anglers who oppose a proposal to stock Stagecoach Reservoir with nonnative yellow perch.

“We need to improve what we have, not change the recipe,” local angler Jim Curd told Division of Wildlife representatives at an “anglers’ roundtable” meeting the division hosted Wednesday night.

Stagecoach Reservoir, which lies several miles east of the town of Oak Creek, once was a fine fishery for trout, but since the northern pike was illegally introduced into it in 1994, the quality of fishing there has gone down, Curd said.

However, the river waters below Stagecoach still have excellent trout fishing.

“The risk of damaging that isn’t worth it,” Curd said.

If the perch escaped from the reservoir, they would compete with trout for food, which some anglers don’t want to see happen.

Officials have a plan to keep the perch in the reservoir.

“In order to do that they’ll have to screen it,” DOW biologist Dave Langlois said. “The price tag on that is so high.”

It would cost $2 million for research, development and installation of a Kevlar screen across the outlet of the reservoir, Stagecoach State Park manager Fred Bohlmann said in a telephone interview. He wasn’t present at the meeting during the discussion about Stagecoach.

Anglers at the meeting were concerned that the net wouldn’t be able to stop perch eggs and larvae from going downstream.

Bohlmann said the Fish and Wildlife Service believes if that happened, the eggs and larvae would be trout food and wouldn’t have a chance to grow.

Also, the perch would live in shallower areas on the west end of the reservoir and the chance of eggs and larvae making the trip to the other side would be unlikely, Bohlmann said.

“I don’t see how we can keep them out of the river,” said Duncan Draper, president of the Yampa Valley Fly Fishermen.

If the perch don’t get through the screen, sooner or later a “bucket biologist” will illegally introduce the fish into the other waters, he said, adding that’s how pike got into Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake.

“They didn’t swim upstream,” Draper said.

Pike eat almost anything. After they showed up in Stagecoach, the numbers of trout decreased drastically.

That’s precisely why Bohlmann wants to introduce the perch. The fish would serve as an alternative food source for pike, protecting more trout and making a better fishery with more trout, pike and perch, he said.

Right now, Bohlmann said, it’s difficult to catch a fish in Stagecoach. The perch, however, would be an easy catch for anglers who just want to get a fish on the line.

“That’s an element that’s missing in the lake right now,” he said.

Most anglers in Colorado just want to catch a few fish and enjoy themselves, he said, instead of only looking for a big catch.

“That group is not represented in a meeting like that,” Bohlmann said of the roundtable.

Improving the fishery means more people would visit the state park, Bohlmann said.

In the mid ’90s the number of visitors to Stagecoach went down, which was directly associated with the declining numbers of fish in the reservoir, he said.

“There’s no doubt that we’re a destination fishery,” Bohlmann said.

Trophy-size pike have enticed more anglers to the reservoir in the last couple years and visitor numbers have been better, but haven’t matched those during the park’s heyday, he said.

Park employees are surveying anglers at Stagecoach. If their findings show that 51 percent or more want the perch, then Bohlmann will continue to pursue the idea.

— To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail

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