Fish fry? Anglers catching perch at Ruedi
Pitkin County Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
BASALT, Colorado ” Much to their surprise, anglers are hauling in the makings of a fish fry ” perch ” at Ruedi Reservoir of late.
Doug Nehasil of El Jebel has been fly-fishing at Ruedi for some 25 years and has never caught a perch ” a species with which he is intimately familiar, having grown up in Minnesota. But when friends reported hauling in two-dozen or so small samples of the delectable pan fish from near the inlet at the upper end of the reservoir last weekend, he was intrigued.
“I’m going to go up this weekend,” he said. “I may have to take a worm and a bobber up with me, which I don’t usually do.”
Anglers are welcome to keep all of the perch they want, said Kendall Ross, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) in Glenwood Springs.
The perch were not placed in Ruedi as part of the DOW’s stocking program, Ross said. Rather, they were introduced illicitly, either by someone who intentionally dumped perch into the lake or accidentally through the use of perch as baitfish. Both acts are illegal.
“I would guess they came from Harvey Gap ” that’s the closest population that I know of,” Ross said. Harvey Gap Reservoir is near Rifle.
Ross confirmed the presence of perch in Ruedi, located east of Basalt in the Fryingpan Valley, last fall when she sampled fish populations with gill nets and caught a couple of 10-inchers and perhaps a dozen very small perch.
“If anglers are reporting them, their population is increasing. They are reproducing,” she said.
The presence of the perch is problematic, as the fish will compete with trout and kokanee salmon ” both stocked at Ruedi by the DOW ” for relatively scarce food. The depth of the reservoir and steepness of its banks isn’t conducive to thriving populations of insects and other organisms that fish eat, she said.
The lake contains a population of lake trout that would eat perch, except the large trout typically stay in the cold, deep water, while the perch will school in the shallows, according to Ross.
“I don’t think they’re ever going to meet.”
A yellow perch is easily identifiable, with its greenish-yellow color; dark, vertical bands on its sides and a spiny front dorsal fin. A big perch is 12 inches long; most don’t reach that size, according to fish and game experts. They are prolific breeders and the mostly frequently caught game fish in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“Their reputation as a tasty treat makes them a doubly valuable Great Lakes product,” according to the Michigan DNR’s website.
There are no bag limits on perch on the Western Slope, according to the DOW fishing regulations. To anglers who want to take them home and fry them up, Ross advised, “Please do.”