SILT — Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue their evaluation of tiger muskie as an alternative angling opportunity on the Western Slope. After the stocking of 140 tiger muskie in Harvey Gap Reservoir last year, agency biologists plan to add more of the large fish to the well-known fishery on Thursday evening, May 15.
CPW aquatic biologists say their goal is to answer the call from many anglers looking for more warm and cool water fishing opportunities in the western part of the state. Another benefit of the introduction is that tiger muskie, the hatchery-produced sterile offspring of northern pike and muskie, are considered a sport fish species that may be more compatible with the efforts to recover four endangered native fishes, when compared to other sport fish that are not sterile hybrids.
“We are continuing the evaluation phase of this project,” said Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin. “This introduction of the non-native species last year was well received. There is still potential for tiger muskie to become a viable alternative to northern pike.”
The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, a partnership of several states and agencies including Colorado, has identified the northern pike, smallmouth bass and other predators as significant obstacles to the recovery of the endangered Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail chub and razorback sucker.
The large, aggressive tiger muskie often grow over 50 inches and can weigh up to 30 pounds. They can feed on smaller northern pike, potentially minimizing their numbers. In addition, because the fish do not reproduce, biologists believe their introduction here and in other waters across the Western Slope could have positive benefits for the recovery program.
“These fish are an excellent alternative to northern pike and fit within our management objectives for native fish,” adds Martin. “If the evaluation is a success and these fish thrive in Harvey Gap, it could be a win-win situation for everyone.”
The tiger muskie being stocked in Harvey Gap are raised by students at Limon High School. The school’s hatchery is part of unique aquaculture class funded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other partners. As part of the class curriculum, the students will accompany the fish and help with the stocking, the final phase of their fish-rearing efforts.
To protect the newly introduced species, which can be easily mistaken for northern pike, spear fishing, bow fishing and the use of gigs to take northern pike at Harvey Gap State Park remains prohibited. These methods of taking northern pike remain legal at other waters including nearby Rifle Gap State Park. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations allow the possession of one tiger muskie 36 inches or longer in length.
For more information about fishing in Colorado, go to www.cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/Fishing.aspx.