DOW: no plan to poison fish at Rifle Gap | AspenTimes.com

DOW: no plan to poison fish at Rifle Gap

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janice Zielinski reels in her line after a morning of fishing on Rifle Gap with her friend Reed Stephens. Both anglers, from Rifle, say that the pike have taken over the gap and that the trout population has suffered. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

RIFLE, Colo. ” Some anglers have taken issue with what they said was a Colorado Division of Wildlife proposal to poison the reservoir at Rifle Gap Reservoir.

Of concern was a 2006 paper by a DOW biologist included in a June 2007 report posted on DOW’s website. The paper proposed a mandatory kill rule for northern pike at the reservoir in order to reduce the population of the illegally introduced fish.

The report states that the pike have dramatically increased in population and threaten other species of sport fish. It says the pike also could escape the reservoir and harm endangered species in the Colorado River. As an alternative to the mandatory kill rule, the paper proposed “chemical reclamation” to “eliminate” the northern pike.

Some anglers, including members of the Western Slope Anglers, feared DOW would destroy fishing at the popular fishing spot with chemicals. Rifle Gap is located outside of Rifle, and west of Glenwood Springs.

“The thought of killing a lake of this caliber has many sport fishermen in the area in a state of shock,” someone wrote in an unsigned e-mail to the Post Independent. “Not only warm-water fishing fanatics but cold-water trout fishermen as well.”

The person couldn’t be immediately reached.

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But DOW said it’s already a dead issue. The mandatory kill and chemical reclamation options were denied in 2006 at the first level of review before reaching the state level, said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

A DOW letter of response to concerned anglers assures that DOW has no intention of poisoning the reservoir. It says DOW posts certain reports on its website to promote transparency and access to information. The response letter suggests certain anglers failed to understand the context of the document’s place in the bureaucratic process.

“They could have called us,” Hampton said. “They instead took this forward to the media and to several state legislators acting like it was something we fully intended to do.”

DOW is attempting to re-establish a walleye fishery at the request of anglers at Rifle Gap, Hampton said, and the reservoir is not large enough to support both pike and walleye populations. Both are major predators. DOW hopes that its current practice of encouraging voluntary removal of pike will solve the problem, he added.

Hampton said DOW hadn’t ruled out considering a mandatory kill or chemical reclamation option to deal with the pike if necessary in the future, but those options would be brought before the public for review and comment before being executed.

Two anglers at the reservoir Monday were not fans of the pike.

“We are all for the DOW doing whatever they have to do to clear out all these pike,” said Janice Zielinski.

“Unfortunately, that may mean killing all the fish in the lake and then restocking.”

She said it was a shame someone introduced the pike in the first place.

“The number of trout just keeps going downhill because of the pike,” she said.

Reed Stephens said, “Pike have taken over this gap. Nine out of 10 fish caught here are pike.”