Anglers can vie for $5,000 in cash prizes and actively participate in an important wildlife-management activity at this year's Fourth Annual Smallmouth Bass Tournament at Ridgway State Park, July 7-28. The tournament is sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
No tournament entry fee is required, and the more smallmouth bass anglers catch and keep the better their chances of winning prizes. Anyone 16 years and older must have a Colorado fishing license to participate.
The purpose of the annual tournament is to protect native fish and water users downstream of the reservoir. Smallmouth bass, introduced illegally at Ridgway Reservoir more than a decade ago, are predator fish than can survive in Western Slope Rivers, including the Uncompahgre River which flows from the reservoir. There is a significant risk of smallmouth bass escaping from the reservoir into the river where they could reproduce and consume native fish species found nowhere else in the world. Smallmouth bass have escaped other impoundments in western Colorado and are adversely affecting populations of native fish in several rivers.
"By participating in the tournament and removing smallmouth bass, anglers will be actively helping with wildlife management in Colorado," said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for CPW in Montrose. "Anglers are far more efficient at removing these fish than any type of mechanical method that we could use."
Last year 126 anglers participated in the tournament and removed about 2,400 smallmouth bass. The fish ranged in size from three-inches long to 17-inches long.
But no matter what size fish anyone catches, there's a chance of winning cash prizes that range from $250 to $1,500. There are two prize categories. In the "raffle category" anglers will be given a raffle ticket for every fish they turn in. Tickets will be drawn at the end of the tournament and the first prize is $1,500. There are also three additional second tier prizes of $250. The drawing will be held at 6:30 p.m., July 28, at the Ridgway boat ramp.
In the "angling category", prizes will be awarded for: Most smallmouth caught, $1,500; second most caught, $500; third most, $250; largest smallmouth caught, $250; smallest, $250.
For the kids, any angler 12-years-old or younger who turns in a smallmouth bass will be given a package of fishing lures. Those prizes are limited to one per angler.
In all categories the fish must be turned into CPW officials at the registration table. The tournament starts at 7:00 a.m. July 7 and ends at 6:00 p.m. July 28.
If you've never fished for smallmouth bass, or if you want to improve your chances of catching them, CPW has posted a web page that explains the best ways to catch them. The web page also provides an in-depth explanation of smallmouth bass issues at Ridgway Reservoir: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Ridgway/Pages/Smallmouth-Bass.aspx.
CPW invites all anglers to participate in the tournament.
"A primary mission of Colorado Parks and Wildlife is to work to sustain native species," said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW's Southwest Region. "Colorado's anglers contribute significantly to our work and we greatly appreciate their support in helping us to maintain the state's fisheries."
Ridgway State Park, located about 20 miles south of Montrose in southwestern Colorado, is one of the state's most beautiful parks. Camping, yurts, playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, boating and river fishing are available. Entry to the park is $7 per vehicle, rates for camping range from $20 to $30. A $70 annual pass provides entrance to all 41 Colorado state parks.
Boaters are reminded that their craft must be cleaned, drained and dry before entering Ridgway State Park.
For more information about the park and to make camping reservations, go to: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Ridgway/Pages/default.aspx