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Big prizes beckon smallmouth bass anglers to Ridgway State Park tournament

RIDGWAY, Colo. – If you need an extra excuse to go fishing, head over to Ridgway State Park July 11 – Aug. 9 to participate in the Sixth Annual Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tournament sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

CPW is reducing the population of smallmouth bass in the reservoir and needs help from anglers. To get that help, the state agency is providing major incentives to anglers: $10,000 in prize money. The more fish you catch, the more chances you’ll have for prizes.

No registration fee is required and all anglers over 16 years old must have a fishing license.

“Anglers have really helped us during the past five years and for the 6th annual tournament we’re again offering cash incentives for anglers,” said Eric Gardunio, aquatic biologist for CPW in Montrose.

A raffle category and a skills category for prizes will be offered. To qualify for any of the prizes, anglers must turn in a smallmouth bass head or the whole fish at the drop box located at the fish-cleaning station near the boat ramp. Every time an angler turns in fish he or she must fill out the registration card, sign it and place it with the fish in the plastic bags provided. Anglers can only turn in fish they’ve caught; anglers are not allowed to pool their catch.

All anglers who enter the tournament are eligible for the raffle and will receive one entry for every fish they catch. The raffle grand prize winner will receive $1,000, and ten second-tier prizes of $100 will also be awarded. All kids 12 and under who turn in a smallmouth bass will receive a package of fishing lures.

“Anyone who catches even one fish has a chance to win a big prize,” Gardunio said.

Anglers who catch a lot of fish could be rewarded generously: $5,000 for catching the most smallmouth bass; $2,000 for the second place finisher; $1,000 for third place. Each of the top three finishers will also receive a Colorado State Parks Pass good for all 41 parks. The winners in this category are not eligible for the raffle.

All fish must be in the drop box by 6 p.m., Aug. 9. Winners will be notified by Aug. 14 and prizes will be mailed.

The purpose of the annual tournament is to protect native fish and water users downstream of the reservoir. Smallmouth bass, introduced illegally to Ridgway Reservoir more than a decade ago, are predator fish that 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 that are 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,” Gardunio said. “Anglers have been very effective at removing these fish in prior tournaments and we appreciate their assistance. There are no bag or possession limits on smallmouth bass at Ridgway.”

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 smallmouth bass. The web page also includes tournament rules and an in-depth explanation of issues related to smallmouth bass at Ridgway Reservoir: https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/Tournament.aspx.

Ridgway State Park, located about 20 miles south of Montrose in southwest Colorado is one of the state’s most beautiful parks. Camping, playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, a swim beach, boating and river fishing are available. Entry to the park is $9 per vehicle; rates for camping range from $24-$36. An $80 annual pass provides entrance to all 41 Colorado State Parks.

Boaters are reminded that their craft must be cleaned, drained and dry before entering the reservoir at Ridgway State Park. All boats are subject to inspection for aquatic nuisance species.

For more information about the park and to make camping reservations, go to: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Ridgway/Pages/default.aspx.