Mystery on the Roaring Fork – bass?
September 23, 2011
CARBONDALE – Something on the Roaring Fork River smells fishy.
Fishermen caught a second bass Sunday in the Roaring Fork River, where experts say it is too high and too cold for the fish to survive. The most recent catch was a mile above the Carbondale public boat ramps. The first bass was reportedly hooked a few weeks ago downriver, closer to Glenwood Springs.
“It’s a seriously weird occurrence, especially for that cold of water – he should not be there,” said Wolf Scheiblberg, a fishing guide for Crystal Fly Shop in Carbondale, who was present for the catch.
“I would expect that thing maybe down by Rifle, but not anywhere near that high up,” Scheiblberg said.
Scheiblberg was floating the river with a client, Michael Klein of Malibu, Calif., when they hooked the fish. They estimated its weight at 2.5 to 3 pounds.
“We’d been catching trout all day,” Scheiblberg said. “As soon as I saw the thing I thought, ‘That is a really odd-looking trout.'”
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They released the fish, which they believed to be a largemouth bass, based on the picture they provided. But there is some debate whether it is a largemouth or smallmouth.
Area wildlife manager Perry Will said he has no doubts that the fish came out of a private pond someone stocked with the bass. He said screening requirements are necessary so the fish in private ponds stay out of protected rivers and lakes.
Stocking largemouth bass is permissible in a private pond with a permit from the state Division of Wildlife; smallmouth bass are forbidden in any body of water in the region.
Though it may remain unknown exactly where the fish came from, wildlife officials hope that the bass came from a pond legally stocked with only largemouth bass.
Will said that introducing the species into a public river or lake is a criminal offense. He does not believe the bass could thrive in those waters, but said they do have to be careful because of competition and predation that could occur, especially with endangered species.
“I’m not too concerned that the bass will take over the Roaring Fork River,” Will said. “This is rare, and the Roaring Fork isn’t really a bass-type river.”
Scheiblberg did not speculate where the fish came from, but agreed that it must have washed out of someone’s pond.
Bass are a popular game fish among anglers, who know them for their fight. Depending on the weight, the fish also are good for eating.
After catching the fish on Sunday, the next question for the anglers was what to do with it.
“I hesitated whether to release it or kill it,” Scheiblberg said. “But given the fact that I hesitated, I’d prefer not to kill something.”
Both Scheiblberg and Will agreed that the fish probably won’t live long in the river as it begins to get colder.
Will said he wouldn’t have liked to have seen Scheiblberg throw it back.
“They should have kept it and ate it,” Will said.