DOW stocks Lake Christine with lunkers |

DOW stocks Lake Christine with lunkers

Officials stock Lake Christine with 400 rainbow trout that weigh about 2 pounds each and are 16 to 18 inches long. They were retired brooding stock from the Crystal River Hatchery. Now they are fair game as dinner for anglers. (Contributed photo)

BASALT ” The Colorado Division of Wildlife put the cherry on top of its two-year effort to rehabilitate Basalt’s Lake Christine on Friday.

Officials stocked the small pond on the outskirts of town with 400 rainbow trout that weighed about two pounds each and were 16 to 18 inches long. They were retired brooding stock from the Crystal River Hatchery. Now they are fair game as supper for anglers’ tables.

Lake Christine is one of the few “catch-and-keep” waterways in the Roaring Fork Valley. “It’s the only place you can drown a worm in a 12-mile radius,” said Kelly Wood, wildlife officer for the Basalt district. Anglers also can keep their catch at Ruedi Reservoir.

Lake Christine, where parents have taken kids to fish for decades, has been ailing since late fall 2000. The culvert that releases its water became clogged, and the water topped the dam and “blew it out,” Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux said.

Cottonwood trees and mud flowed onto Highway 82 when the dam fell apart.

State engineers wouldn’t allow the wildlife division to refill the pond because of questionable integrity of the repaired dam. The wildlife commission, the board that oversees the wildlife division, was on the fence about the cash-strapped agency rebuilding the dam. Duroux said Basalt officials lobbied hard for the project and got vital help from Russell George, the former head of the wildlife division.

The agency ultimately approved a $1.8 million project, which included rebuilding the dam and a separate spillway, dredging sediment from the lake bottom and expanding its boundaries, according to Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will. The surface of the pond will be about one acre larger than before, he said.

Lake Christine is less than half full right now, but spring-fed streams are flowing, and it’s expected to fill well before a grand opening celebration June 24.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers will team up May 3 to build a trail that provides fishing access to the lake. They also will remove cattails and plant native vegetation better-suited for that habitat. Holy Cross Energy will erect a raptor perch overlooking the lake.

Kendall Ross, aquatic biologist for the wildlife division, said the new, improved pond will provide high quality habitat for trout. It will be continually stocked with fish, including tiger trout, an aggressive hybrid that the wildlife officials hope will rid Lake Christine of the remaining goldfish that have proliferated over the years.

Wildlife officers captured and destroyed most of the hunker goldfish when the pond was drained last year. The goldfish proliferated after they were dumped in by people who didn’t want them in their aquariums any longer. They can carry disease and pose a threat to native fish, Ross said.

The tiger trout are a sterile cross between female brown trout and male brook trout.

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