In Spring of 2015, the Gunnison Angling Society Chapter of TU partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Gunnison Watershed School District to Adopt-A-Trout. For this project, the chapter and partners purchased 15 RF tags that were surgically implanted into various fish in Tomichi Creek, a tributary of the Gunnison River. By attaching the RF tags to the fish in the creek, the chapter, CPW, and the partners involved could follow these trout and see what kind of movement they did and provide more information as to what causes fish to move.
After a year of data collection and following the fish in Tomichi Creek, only two fish have left the area. The release was near the confluence with the Gunnison River and it's believed the fish may have migrated into the larger river. "A team from CPW floated a stretch of the Gunnison River looking for them but were unable to detect any signals," Said Briant Wiles, member of the Gunnison Angling Society.
The 13 fish that they can currently track are still in Tomichi Creek- although not necessarily in the same area that they were released in. During the release, groups split the creek into three sections- Upper, Middle and Lower- then tagged and released fish in each section to compare the data.
"We have had a few fish travel a pretty good distance. One fish in particular, which was tagged at the Lower Tagging Location, hung out in the same area we had released him in for several weeks. Then right around the same time the runoff started picking up he bolted upstream and was last detected near the confluence of Tomichi and Cochetopa Creeks. A run of over eight miles," said Wiles. "Now there is another tagged fish that has run nearly as far. This leads us to consider that the two missing fish may be farther up the Tomichi. This has effectively expanded our search area from a five mile stretch to who knows how big. Careful what you wish for."
With help from a $2,500 grant from New Belgium Brewing, the chapter is expanding the project to include a website that will have a map of the Tomichi and points to where each fish is located.
The project was initiated to help study trout movement and involve kids into the learning process. When the project started there were two Gunnison High School classes that were involved and over 25 students have been on field trips to help track the movements. The chapter is also looking to expand the youth outreach and involve more partners.
"We have plans to work with students from a local Boy Scout Troop, the 4H club, and Gunnison Valley Mentors this summer and will have an educational booth set up at next weeks Gunnison River Festival," said Wiles.
“I wanted to get the program going locally to help students develop more awareness and appreciation for our watershed and I thought the experience might generate some interest in resource management career paths,” said Jesse Kruthaupt, Upper Gunnison Project Specialist for TU. “In addition to those benefits, understanding trout behaviors in this area will be a very useful discussion making and monitoring tool for future restoration work. TU couldn’t have done this alone, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District deserve a big ‘Thank You’ for helping to make this happen.”