By Conor McCue

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Despite single digit temperatures at times, scientists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife went fishing for Walleye at Chatfield Reservoir Tuesday and Wednesday. The bone-chilling task is all part of a new study into why the Walleye population at Chatfield is lower than other reservoirs in the state.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers study Walleye. (credit: CBS)

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Last week, the same scientists caught and counted Walleye at Cherry Creek Reservoir. On Wednesday, the group got preview of the difference in the two populations.

“On average, our nets were getting about 15 Walleye per net here,” said Adam Hansen, aquatic research scientist for CPW. “At Cherry Creek, we were on the order of about 100 Walleye per net.”

Scientists went out on the water early Wednesday morning while the temperature was at seven degrees, according to a spokesperson. Many wore heavy winter gear and “float coats” – waterproof jackets made specifically for the conditions.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers study Walleye. (credit: CBS)

Still, the working conditions weren’t what many would consider ideal.

“Buckets freeze together, your hands freeze, the nets freeze, ropes freeze,” described Hansen. “You kind of have to put up with it.”

While one would think the outing could be postponed to a day with more favorable conditions, that’s not exactly the case. The group planned this week’s outings last spring.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers study Walleye. (credit: CBS)

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“It has to be during the fall and the water temperature has to be within a particular range, so we are in there right now,” Hansen said.

After catching dozens of fish, the group brought them to the on-site hatchery at Chatfield. There, the scientists recorded each fish’s sex and size. After that, someone cut out each ear bone, which the they can look at in the month to come to figure out each fish’s age.

“With all that information, we can actually diagnose what factors might be limiting the Walleye in Chatfield versus Cherry Creek or Pueblo,” Hansen said.

It’s work that will take several months, but the results are critical to many Coloradans.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers study Walleye. (credit: CBS)

“A lot of people love fishing for them and love eating Walleye,” Hansen said. “Walleye are delicious to eat, and that brings in a lot of money to the state of Colorado.”

Hansen tells CBS4 the solution won’t be simple, but with time, the right research, and a few cold days on the water, the Walleye population at Chatfield has a chance.

“Sunshine or winter weather, we’ll be out there,” He joked.

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None of the fish caught in the study went to waste. Many of the filets will be donated to the Denver Rescue Mission.

Conor McCue