Did you hear the one about the Virginia doctor who caught a 2-foot, 4-pound fish at Dillon Reservoir?
It’s no yarn. On Nov. 6, Dr. Lindsay Regali caught the new Colorado state record fish — an arctic char measuring 23.5 inches and weighing 4.15 pounds.
“It was such a fun, unique experience to be fishing with snow coming down, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. It was almost surreal,” Regali said in a Colorado Parks and Wildlife news release. “Mostly, it was just a lot of fun and it was something I’ll definitely want to go back and do again.”
This may sound like just another fish tale, but the record is actually the result of strategic partnerships and a 30-year project based on the food chain in Dillon Reservoir.
In the early 1980s, the trout population in Dillon Reservoir was, well, floundering, and the fishermen were taking notice. Colorado Parks and Wildlife introduced Mysis shrimp to boost the trout population.
Because, what could be better than a steady diet of tasty shrimp?
But after 10 years, wildlife experts determined the project wasn’t going as planned, since the shrimp generally feed at night at the surface, while trout tend to scour the bottom for their evening meals.
The result: too many shrimp and still not enough trout.
To reduce the shrimp population, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers introduced arctic char, a fish not commonly found in the Lower 48. And after several restocking efforts over the years, the arctic char experiment is going swimmingly. The fish are sustaining their population, while the shrimp population has been reduced.
“If current conditions continue, I would anticipate the char will continue to thrive,” said Brandon Ransom, recreation manager for Denver Water. “We may continue to set new records for largest char.”
And the trout? They’re still trolling the bottom of the reservoir, gobbling whatever they can find.
Dillon Reservoir recreation is managed cooperatively by the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee (known as “DRREC”), comprised of Denver Water, Summit County, Town of Dillon, Town of Frisco and the U.S. Forest Service. DRREC issues permits that allow fishing guides on the reservoir, including one for Alpine Fishing Adventures, the company that led the trip for Dr. Regali’s record-setting catch.
“DRREC has been a tremendous benefit for everybody involved,” Ransom said. “We each contribute our own expertise to a great partnership. And the people who recreate on Dillon ultimately benefit.”
And there are still plenty of arctic char lurking in Dillon Reservoir. It may not be long before someone hooks one larger than Regali’s record-setter.
At least that’s what the fishermen say.