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"All information points to a winterkill situation caused by an extremely cold winter paired with very low lake levels. There were several weeks of thick ice cover on the lake last winter. Such ice cover is rare in the southeast quadrant of the state," said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist with the DOW.
"Capping the nutrient-rich lake under a cover of ice exhausted the oxygen supply. It seems to be unprecedented. Our biologists have never seen this kind of loss at Nee Gronde before," he said.
Unfortunately, there are virtually no fish left for anglers.
DOW employees noticed dead fish along the shoreline shortly after ice-out last month. Aquatic Biologist Jim Ramsay set six nets on April 15, and set 12 nets on April 20, but only captured five carp that were barely alive.
The DOW is currently devising a strategy to rebuild the fishery by stocking gizzard shad to develop a forage base.
"This winter was a perfect storm of compromised water quality, low lake levels, and very cold winter temps. It is a shame to lose such a productive fishery, but we plan to restore it over the next several months through an aggressive stocking program," said Krieger. When full, Nee Gronde Reservoir has the capacity to hold over 100,000 acre feet of water at depths over 70 feet. Other than minimal precipitation, Nee Gronde has not received any irrigation water during the past decade. Today, the reservoir is less than half its capacity. As water levels decline, salinity increases and oxygen levels decrease. With no fresh water to Nee Gronde for many years, the water quality was compromised and it made the lake susceptible to environmental conditions.
The DOW is looking for the right opportunity to purchase water for both Nee Gronde and Nee Noshe. "This is a high priority for us," said Southeast Regional Manager Dan Prenzlow. "This reservoir complex is an extremely popular place for our constituents to recreate. Ultimately the best solution is to put more water into both of these reservoirs, otherwise a potential exists for this to happen again with the same negative impacts on recreation, the local economy, and the wildlife habitat the reservoirs provide."
NEE NOSHE DECLINE
Unfortunately, the prospects for fishing are not very good for nearby Nee Noshe either. Once considered by many to be the best warm water fishery in Colorado, Nee Noshe also suffers from low water levels that have steadily declined since early in the decade as irrigation companies have stored irrigation water in other reservoirs.
Ramsay reports that there are still catfish and wipers alive in Nee Noshe, but the fishing this year will only be a shadow of what it was in the past.
Currently, Nee Noshe covers less than 450 acres. The DOW was able to purchase a small amount of water for the lake in 2008, but that water has essentially evaporated. A fish kill (involving mainly carp and shad) occurred during fall of 2009.
Boaters may be able to launch small vessels from the south boat ramp at Nee Noshe early in the season, but ramp conditions will deteriorate if the lake recedes during summer of 2010. Boaters should call the DOW office in Lamar at 719-336-6600 to check the latest conditions before towing a boat to Nee Noshe.
OTHER FISHING OPTIONS IN SE COLORADO
John Martin Reservoir: John Martin has maintained decent water levels for four consecutive years since it was almost drained in 2006. The DOW purchased extra water last year to raise the permanent pool, and fishing was outstanding, especially for white bass, walleye, saugeye, and catfish. The best fishing usually occurs during the spring months (mid April-June), but if 2010 is similar to 2009, fishing could be excellent throughout summer and fall.
Jackson's Pond: This small pond is a popular fishing area located near the town of Eads that was developed by the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation through the DOW's "Fishing is Fun" project. The pond is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and rainbow trout (seasonal).
Adobe Creek Reservoir: The normal water cycle at Adobe Creek is characterized by high spring water levels that are lowered throughout the summer. In recent years, catfish have been the major attraction. Large channel catfish are plentiful as well as large (but fewer) blue catfish. Recent stocking of blue catfish is expected to bolster the numbers of this popular species. Most catfish anglers fish from shore with large surf casting poles. Popular baits include worms, large minnows, cut shad, crawdads, shrimp, and dough bait. Adobe Creek also has crappie and saugeye.
Midwestern Farms Pond: This new gravel pit was opened to the public in 2008. It is a deep lake, with 54' of water in places. It is located 6 miles east of Granada on Hwy 50. The lake was stocked in 2008 and 2009 with most warm water species found in Colorado, as well as catchable sized (10-12") rainbow trout. The trout are available to catch all year long, due to the deep cool water. They commonly take anglers' offerings ranging from worms to power bait and spinners.
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