$20 per fish: Colorado Parks and Wildlife offering anglers cash to catch invasive species

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is offering anglers $20 per fish if they can help remove invasive fish species from local reservoirs.

The agency said northern pike are in the Kenney Reservoir, which is located near the town of Rangely in northwest Colorado. In 2018, aquatic biologists with CPW confirmed the nonnative predator was in the 335-surface acre body of water.

Northern pike and other invasive fish species can cause problems for management agencies, water providers and ethical anglers all over Colorado, CPW said.

The presence of the invasive fish prompted the CPW and reservoir owner Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, as well as other agencies, to offer money so anglers can help harvest the fish.

From June 1 until Nov. 30, licensed fisherman can earn $20 for each fish they catch and remove from the reservoir and other bodies of water from Stedman Mesa to the Utah border, according to the wildlife agency.

Authorities believe the fish were illegally dumped into the reservoir, and another spot called the White River, by a person who moves fish into other bodies of water in an effort to create their own illegal fishery.

The agency said that illegal fish stocking can result in fines up to $5,000 as well as permanent loss of hunting and fishing privileges. Anyone who is convicted of illegal fish dumping will also pay thousands of dollars to reclaim the body of water he or she tampered with, CPW said.

The Kenney Reservoir is a popular spot for fisherman where they can catch catfish, black crappie and common carps. The CPW also stocks rainbow trout in the reservoir but canceled this year’s stock because of the invasive fish problem.

Research also showed that the presence of the nonnative northern pike, and others such as smallmouth bass, can impede the recovery of Colorado’s endangered fish when placed in their habitats. The native Colorado fish species include the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail and razorback sucker. The rare species only exist in the Upper Colorado River Basin, the CPW said.

The White River is a designated critical habitat for the Colorado pikeminnow, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the lower 18 miles of the river in Utah is a habitat for the razorback sucker. In both locations, the northern pike and smallmouth bass have damaged the native fish habitats.

Other reservoirs invaded by northern pike or other nonnative species include the Green Mountain Reservoir and Wolford Mountain Reservoir. Payment for catching those fish was offered years ago, the CPW said, and the incentive program is back again.

To join in on the paid harvest, anglers must provide their fishing license at any of the invaded bodies of water they head off to.

For those catching fish within the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District’s boundaries, anglers must bring their freshly caught fish to the district office at 2252 E. Main St. in Rangely during business hours, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.

For those who catch fish in the Green Mountain Reservoir, bring your catch to the Heeney Marina during business hours. Anyone fishing at the Wolford Mountain Reservoir can bring the invasive fish to the campground host.

Each entity will pay anglers with funds provided by the CPW.

For more information on the harvest payments, contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife northwest region senior aquatic biologist Lori Martin at (970) 225-6186.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.