Bringing a native species back from the brink of extinction doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that requires various pieces from areas all over to work together. From participants running and fishing through back country wilderness areas at the Flyathlon, to spawning Greenbacks in a remote alpine lake, to guides and anglers along one of the busiest roads in the country, these pieces are all writing their own part of a much larger puzzle.
For Coloradans, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout is the ultimate native species reintroduction story. The fish was thought to be extinct until a population strand was discovered. The process began to put these fish back into their native waters only to find out years later that it was the wrong fish The true, genetically pure, Greenback lived in Bear Creek west of Colorado Springs. The process started back from the beginning to reintroduce these fish to their native watersheds throughout the Front Range. Click here for more information on the Greenback Reintroduction Process.
During the summer of 2016, Colton Gully set out on a journey to highlight these individual players all on “Team Native Trout.” The work done by the subjects all influence the reintroduction, studies, development and education of how native fish species impact a watershed. Through his journey, Colton met with the creator of the Flyathon, Andrew Todd, who’s event incorporates running, fishing, craft beer, and native species. Proceeds from the event all go towards native species projects and research. Jeff Spohn and Bryan Johnson work with native species from the hatchery and stocking perspective; finding places for these species that will maximize their survival ability. Boyd Wright and Ken Kehmeier work as aquatic biologists studying Greenback Cutthroat Trout. Tom Schneider works as a guide on Clear Creek, along I-70 and incorporates native species education in all of his trips.
These various players are all working on different tasks, but their end goal is the same- reintroduce native species to their home waters.
The Flyathlon combines running, fishing and craft beer into an event and the outcome is improved habitat. Proceeds from the event go towards Colorado TU and the Western Native Trout Initiative for projects on native species research and reintroduction. During just one event in 2016, runners and participants raised over $24,000 that will all be put back into habitat and native trout.
Zimmerman lake is the home to the first Greenback reintroduction. The greenbacks here are the basis and starting point for Greenback projects throughout the state. Each year, CPW biologists with help from CTU spawn the Greenbacks at Zimmerman to ensure the gene pool remains random and it improves future spawning and stocking.
Mt. Shavano fish hatchery in Salida is where Greenbacks, and many other fish species, get their start. The hatchery is the birth place of the Greenbacks that were spawned at Zimmerman. There are currently over 30,000 Greenbacks being raised in the hatchery that will one day be introduced into the wild.
Tom Schneider is a guide along Clear Creek next to I-70 through the Front Range. Tom has a unique connection with the area and the native species that once, and will once again, called the water of Clear Creek “home.” Tom incorporates an education of native species and respect for the habitat in his guided tours.