By Matt Kroschel

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Just under the surface of the chilly waters of Green Mountain Reservoir lurks a predator that is targeting native Colorado fish species and could lead to major environmental dangers if not controlled.

Wildlife managers are hoping a cash incentive being offered will help them control the exploding populations of northern pike that are destroying native fish populations.

The program that begins Thursday for the summer will pay anglers $20 to catch the illegally introduced predator fish.

A northern pike eating a native Colorado fish (credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

The major concern is that the pike will make their way down the Blue River and eventually to the waters of the Colorado River that could greatly impact fish species downstream and world-class fishing access.

Fish biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife told CBS4 if the predatory fish eventually reaches federally listed critical habitat in the Colorado River, they would prey upon the state’s endangered native fishes — the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail.

“Northern pike are aggressive predators with big appetites and if their population continues to grow in Green Mountain Reservoir, that will likely have profound impacts to local fisheries in the future,” said CPW’s Jon Ewert, aquatic biologist.

“This is beneficial in several ways. Anglers can catch a predatory fish and earn some money, it helps us protect fishing here, and helps with our native fish recovery efforts as well.”

Additional Info From Colorado Parks and Wildlife

To participate, anglers must bring their northern pike to the Heeney Marina along with their driver’s license and fishing license.

CPW will keep fish heads for analysis, returning the body of the fish to the anglers. Anglers not wishing to keep northern pike can donate their catch to the marina for later distribution.

Anglers are encouraged to catch and keep as many smallmouth bass and northern pike as they desire, unless special regulations are in effect on specific waters.

For more information, contact Heeney Marina at (970) 724-9441.

To report illicit stocking or any other illegal wildlife activity anonymously, anglers can call Operation Game Thief at (877) 265-6648.

Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to mrkroschel@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.

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