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Anglers can win boats, fishing gear at Ridgway

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Colorado anglers will have a chance to win boats and fishing gear at two upcoming fishing tournaments sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The fishing tournaments are free and open to anyone with a 2016 Colorado fishing license. No pre-registration is required.

A smallmouth bass tournament will be held at Ridgway State Park June 4-12. At Elkhead Reservoir in northwest Colorado there will be a smallmouth bass and a northern pike tournament June 11-19.

"This is a great time of year to fish for these species that are plentiful in these reservoirs," said Sherman Hebein, senior aquatic biologist for CPW's Northwest Region.

For both tournaments, fish of all sizes will be "PIT" tagged. At Ridgway, 10 smallmouth bass will be tagged; at Elkhead, 10 northern pike and 10 smallmouth bass will be tagged.

When fish are turned in by anglers for the day, CPW staff will check them with an electronic scanner. Those who have caught tagged fish will be eligible to win a boat to be awarded by each tournament. To qualify for prizes, anglers must keep all the fish that they catch. Those who don't catch tagged fish will also be eligible for prizes.

At the Ridgway tournament there will also be prizes for anglers 15 years and younger.

The goal of the tournaments is to reduce the population of these species in the reservoirs and to reduce the chances of them escaping downstream. Smallmouth bass and northern pike that escape can thrive in the rivers below the reservoirs and prey on Colorado's native fish, which include the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail.

"The native fish are uniquely adapted to the Colorado River Basin and are found nowhere else in the world," said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW's Southwest Region. "As Colorado's wildlife agency, it is our mission to ensure these native species thrive in our state waters."

Maintaining a balance in Colorado's reservoir fisheries is challenging for aquatic biologists. Non-native species such as smallmouth bass and northern pike are very adaptable and have the ability to negatively impact native fish populations.

The PIT tags, small computer chips, are implanted in the fish and are not visible. All fish caught must be checked at the CPW stations that will be set up at the reservoirs. Live fish will not be checked.

All boaters are reminded that they must go through the aquatic nuisance inspection stations before launching their craft in the reservoirs.

More information, complete rules for the tournaments and fishing tips can be found at http://cpw.state.co.us/tournament.

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