DENVER – More than 700 greenback cutthroat trout were stocked in a stream in the Poudre River system last week as part of the ongoing effort to revive the population of Colorado’s state fish – once believed to be extinct.
The efforts to re-stock small streams with the trout species native to Colorado has been ongoing for several years after descendants of the last wild population of the fish were found in Bear Creek in 2012 outside of Colorado Springs.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service employees and Colorado Trout Unlimited volunteers have been stocking various small streams throughout the state in the years since. The efforts last Tuesday brought the small trout to their fifth stream in the state.
Other locations where the fish have been stocked and where officials are working to rejuvenate their population include Bear Creek, Herman Gulch, Dry Gulch and Zimmerman Lake.
A group of about 50 people hiked between 4 and 9 miles round trip to the stream in the Poudre River tributary system last Thursday with the trout in specialized backpacks pumped with water and oxygen.
The 711 that were stocked in the stream were raised over the past year at the Mt. Shavano Hatchery in Salida.
The U.S. Service found the stream to which the fish were brought last Thursday and over the past several years, workers have done research to ensure there were no other fish living there. CPW says that the stream needed to have no other fish living inside it – particularly the invasive rainbow, brown and brook trout, which will out-compete and sometimes eat the smaller greenback cutthroat.
“This location is protected by a series of natural waterfall barriers, upwards of 20-feet, that ensures the reach we stocked will not be invaded by non-native fish downstream,” said Kyle Battige, an aquatic biologist with CPW.
Once the fish were hiked in to the location where they were stocked, they were acclimated to the water temperature of 51 degrees for 10-15 minutes before they were released, CPW said.
The agency said that crews will stock more greenback cutthroat in the same stream each summer for the next two years. Scientists will analyze how fish are responding to the arear and will be looking for signs of natural reproduction and new greenbacks in about 3 to 4 years.
“This stocking project is another great example of how anglers and local communities can work together to save a threatened species,” said Dan Omasta, the grassroots coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We had over 40 volunteers that traveled from as far as Eagle, Colo., and Wyoming to carry fish over nine miles into the backcountry on a rainy afternoon. The passion and dedication of our community is what drives an optimistic future for the greenback cutthroat trout.”