Native Trout

New! Spring 2019 High Country Angler is out!

NEW! High Country Angler Spring 2019

The new spring issue of High Country Angler is now live and you can view it online or download the entire issue for free! This time around you can look forward these stories:

  • A Q& A with Landon Mayer by Frank Martin

  • Still Water Sure Thing: Yellowstone Lake by Brian La Rue

  • Paint By Number Fly Fishing by Peter Stitcher 

  • Your Guide to RMNP by Annie Smith

  • Dry Flies in February by Hayden Mellsop

  • Minturn Anglers by Mark Shulman

  • 50 Years Protecting Rivers by Mike Ledger

  • Corps, EPA Propose Clean Water Act Rollback By David Nickum

  • Public Lands: Best. Idea. Ever by CTU Staff

  • Behind the Fin with Dave Taylor by CTU Staff

  • TU and the Birth of Colorado Instream Flows by CTU Staff

  • Angler's All by CTU Staff

  • Fit to be Tied by Joel Evans

Fishing for Fahrenheit

Guy Turenne and Phil Wright trekking through deep snow to find a buried stream temperature probe on Fall Creek. Photo Credit: Phil Wright, 2019.

Guy Turenne and Phil Wright trekking through deep snow to find a buried stream temperature probe on Fall Creek. Photo Credit: Phil Wright, 2019.

It was a beautiful November day in the high country, as Guy Turenne and Phil Wright climbed their way over drifts of fresh snow along Fall Creek – a tiny tributary in the heart of Colorado’s northern mountains. 

This time, it was not fish that they were after, but a small temperature probe the size of a silver dollar, lying in wait at the bottom of the stream channel.  Months earlier, Guy and Phil, along with dozens of other TU volunteers, worked with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to place these loggers in different stream locations throughout the eastern half of the state.

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Fish are heavily affected by temperature – especially trout.  Changes in thermal regimes over the course of a few hours to a few months can trigger fish to spawn, eat, grow, and even breathe.  We all saw stories in the hot, dry summer months of 2018, when low flows and extreme ambient air temperatures brought some rivers to over 79°F.  At that point, dissolved oxygen becomes increasingly scarce and fish can die. 

Stream temperatures also impact the normal day-to-day and cyclic activities of our trout.  For example, Rainbow trout will spawn in the spring when water temperature begins to rise and reaches 45-56 degrees F (52°F is ideal).  Conversely, Brown trout will spawn in the fall as water temperatures drop within 44-48°F.  Each species of trout thrives at different conditions.

So, what does any of this have to do with two TU volunteers hiking through two feet of snow in the middle of Winter?

As it turns out – a lot!  Just as water temperature affects the spawning cycle of Rainbows and Browns, thermal regimes play an important role in the development of Cutthroat trout – in this case, Greenbacks and Rio Grandes.  These fish have evolved over thousands of years to eat, grow, and reproduce at specific thermal conditions in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  As Trout Unlimited and native trout recovery partners continue to engage in projects that reclaim habitat and stock native fingerlings, we must ensure that the temperature regimes will support those fish long term.

But collecting that level of data across thousands of miles of small tributaries and remote drainages can pose a challenge to recovery partners.  Fortunately, TU volunteers came to the rescue.

Chris Carroll, aquatic biologist with the U.S. Forest Service teaches TU volunteers how to attach stream temperature probes during April 2018 training.

Chris Carroll, aquatic biologist with the U.S. Forest Service teaches TU volunteers how to attach stream temperature probes during April 2018 training.

With critical funding supplied by the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) and the U.S. Forest Service, volunteers from several chapters helped to identify future habitat for the returning Greenback and Rio Grande Cutthroat.  In the Spring of 2018, the project kicked off with a USFS-led volunteer training during the annual CTU Rendezvous in Keystone.  From that point, chapter representatives recruited and trained their own local group of temperature probe deployment experts. Over the course of the summer, TU volunteers exceeded the original 30-site goal by setting and maintaining over 40 HOBO stream temperature loggers in several key drainages that have potential for recovery sites.

Evergreen TU volunteer, Mike Goldblatt, points to a recently-installed stream temperature probe in the Bear Creek drainage.

“We observed that the RMF membership and other members of the community seem to value stream monitoring efforts in general, are strongly supportive of such efforts, and are willing to volunteer,” explained Phil Wright, project coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter. 

As the leaves changed and fell from the trees, TU volunteers went back into the field to collect the data – which was then transferred to biologists at USFS and CPW.  From there, recovery partners will be able to show a better picture of which watersheds will make good candidates for future reintroduction. 

Trout Unlimited volunteers continue to help advance native trout recovery throughout Colorado each year – even winning a regional volunteer service award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018.  Whether its notching beaver dams, backpacking in fingerlings, or tramping through two feet of powder, TU volunteers are committed and engaged in the recovery of our native trout.  The stream temperature study is another chapter of this important saga – and one that will undoubtedly be the preface for the next wave of native cutthroat recovery sites.  Who knows… maybe one of those streams will be in your backyard!

Colorado Trout Unlimited would like to recognize our valuable partners and chapters who have made this project possible:

Western Native Trout Initiative, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Evergreen TU, West Denver TU, Rocky Mountain Flycasters TU, Alpine Anglers TU, Cutthroat Chapter TU, Pikes Peak TU, San Luis Valley TU, and Boulder Flycasters TU.

If you are interested to learn more about this project or volunteer, please visit Colorado TU’s Native Trout Page.

5 Tips for Avoiding Frustrations with Tenkara & Native Greenback Cutthroat

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Tenkara USA's Daniel Galhardo and Colorado Trout Unlimited's Dan Omasta, Grassroots Coordinator recently sat down to talk about CTU's efforts in river conservation and fisheries protections across the state. Omasta discusses the recent policy victories for public lands as well as CTU's programs in youth education and community engagement. They also discussed the true lineage of the native Greenback Cutthroat Trout and why some anglers might be surprised to learn that they have been seeing a hybrid version of Colorado's state fish rather than a true greenback. This is because of recent a study by scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where they found that the pure genetics of the greenback were isolated to ponds just outside of Bear Creek and Bear Creek itself. Take a listen below or read the full transcript of the episode here

Native trout hitch a ride home on the backs of volunteers

Pictured: UpslopeBrewing Co., Western Native Trout Initiative, and Colorado Trout Unlimited. 

Pictured: UpslopeBrewing Co., Western Native Trout Initiative, and Colorado Trout Unlimited. 

CLEAR CREEK, CO – This week, the endangered Greenback Cutthroat Trout got a major boost from Trout Unlimited volunteers and agency partners in Colorado. 

Once thought to be extinct, this rare fish is making a big comeback thanks to the efforts of the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team – a partnership that includes the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Western Native Trout Initiative, and Trout Unlimited.

Over the course of two days in mid-July, 1,700 Year 1 Cutthroats (~4-6 inches) made their way into two headwater drainages in the Clear Creek Watershed, an hour west of Denver, CO.  The Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch creeks represent the first major river populations for this threatened species since it was rediscovered in 2012. 

To help agency partners stock these important little fish, over 80 Trout Unlimited volunteers carried the cutthroats in large packs up steep switchbacks and bush-wacked through dense brush to get to the remote rivers.  Some people hiked over six miles into the top of the drainage (over 11,500 feet)! These volunteers came from ten different TU chapters and represented all walks of life – anglers and conservationists coming together to recover this native trout.

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“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” says Paul Winkle, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist for the Clear Creek Drainage.  It was a major undertaking that took a lot of support from agency staff, non-profit partners, and local businesses.

At Colorado TU, we are very proud of the hard work and dedication that our chapters and volunteers provide to these projects. It shows what can happen when people focus on collaboration and overcoming differences.  It didn’t matter whether someone was young or old, Democrat or Republican, a dry fly purist or never fished before – we were all side by side, climbing those steep trails together. All to save the Greenback.

That's right! Over 80 volunteers and 20+ agency staff from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife service packed up 1700 native Greenback cutthroat trout to be released along Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch on July 16 & 18. These little trout were raised in a hatchery as part of  a statewide effort to restore population's of Colorado's state fish. I'm not sure if you can tell if a fish is happy, but those little guys sure looked excited to be released into their new home. Check out the video spotlight that CBS Local Channel 4 did about the effort, below:

Feeling inspired? Learn more about Native Trout across Colorado - the efforts to protect and restore populations and ways to get involved.

A big shout out to all the volunteers who came out to hike and haul the native trout to their new homes, and to the various groups and agencies that came out to restore Colorado's native fisheries. Read the full story that CBS Channel 4 News did here.

Pictured: Western Native Trout Initiative Sticker and Dublin Dog Co. trout collar. 

Pictured: Western Native Trout Initiative Sticker and Dublin Dog Co. trout collar. 

Thank you to the following:

 

5 tips for fishing the drought

Water temperatures are important to monitor when fishing in the summer. Trout are a coldwater species and therefore respond negatively to warming waters. Need more information about fishing, stream flows. rigging, and locations? Check out our  "Go Fish" page . 

Water temperatures are important to monitor when fishing in the summer. Trout are a coldwater species and therefore respond negatively to warming waters. Need more information about fishing, stream flows. rigging, and locations? Check out our "Go Fish" page

This winter was certainly a tough one for Colorado. Whether you fish small creeks in the high country, irrigate your crops on the Western Slope, or water your lawn in central Denver, we will all be feeling the impacts of the low-water year. According to the latest SNOWTEL analysis offered by the NRCS National Water and Climate Center the percentage of snow-water equivalent (SWE) in Colorado currently ranges from 5% to 44% of normal. While it is true that hydrologic conditions can differ from drainage to drainage – with some areas seeing minimal impact from the low snow totals – overall,

Colorado will see less water in the creeks and rivers this year. Anglers, irrigators, ranchers, municipalities, and recreationalists will all feel the pain this summer, but we are not the only ones. Low flows and hotter days can have serious impacts on fish. With less water and warmer temperatures, the dissolved oxygen content within a stream reach can fluctuate significantly – meaning less holding capacity for fish and bugs. These tough conditions can also affect spawning, migration, and recovery (for example, after being released off the hook).

As anglers, we wait all winter to chase trout during the warmer seasons, but how can we pursue that goal and not over-stress our fisheries? We reached out to our fly shop partners around Colorado and posed that very question:

The fish and wildlife will continue to adapt to these changing conditions, but we can certainly do our part to help them adjust. Take this year as an opportunity to explore new watersheds, improve your handling practices, and better understand your local streams. If you have questions about when and where to fish, you can always ask your local fly shop. 

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION

 


About the Author

Dan Omasta is the Grassroots Coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited, overseeing 24 chapters across the state. 

Hermosa 416 Fire Update: Spreading into Native Colorado River Cutthroat Trout habitat

High Quality map available for download  here .

High Quality map available for download here.

Update from National TU Staffer, Ty Churchwell, San Juan Mountains Coordinator & Sportsmen’s Conservation Project:

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The 416 fire that started June 1, 2018 located 13 miles north of Durango, CO is currently over 35,000 acres large and is at 36% contained as of June 27, 2018 (seen in red outline & fill). Currently, the fire has encroached upon a large section of an isolated native cutthroat population along Clear Creek (traced with blue in the bottom left corner). You can see that most of that drainage has been hit. Clear Creek has been hit hard and currently burning more.

The middle-left creek, Big Bend, also highlighted in blue is currently an isolated population of native cutthroats that are held safe from invasives by a natural waterfall. The other blue lines at the top of the map indicated where the reintroduction program waters are. The basin continues north along with the reintroduction program, but the map cuts off about 1/4 of that. The reintroduction program and Big Bend are clear of fire right now. 

It’s mostly burning back on itself with about 100 acres of additional acreage in recent days.  There are two hot spots:  1) very near/at Clear Creek’s top end.  2)  in the interior of Hermosa burning NW towards Big Bend.  

Currently, updates are being posted on the 416 Facebook page here.

Volunteers make way for Greenback trout recovery efforts along Rock Creek

Volunteers working to dislodge a disruptive beaver dam along Rock Creek drainage in Colorado. Image courtesy of:  Basin+Bend . 

Volunteers working to dislodge a disruptive beaver dam along Rock Creek drainage in Colorado. Image courtesy of: Basin+Bend

On June 21, 2018, volunteers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff met between Fairplay and Grant, CO to work on helping take down beaver dams along the Rock Creek drainage. The Rock Creek drainage is a critical piece of the Greenback recovery puzzle and will provide nearly eight miles of connected stream habitat once the project is completed.  With the help of Trout Unlimited volunteers and chapters, agency partners, and private landowners, there are 4.5 miles of stream that are currently being prepared for greenback reintroduction in the next 2-3 years.  The project below will help make progress on the remaining 3.4 miles of critical habitat.

Last Thursday, volunteers focused on removing beaver dams from sections of the Rock Creek drainage in order to help CPW treat the area for Whirling Disease and non-native brook trout. Volunteers hiked up about a mile and used various tools to help dislodge the dams that were blocking creek flows. A huge thank you to all the volunteers for all their hard work, which resulted in the second scheduled day of work not being needed! Nice job, everyone! If you are interested in future projects, we have upcoming ones listed here

To learn more about Native trout and restoration projects across Colorado check out our page here. Check out the great pictures taken by Erik Myhre of Basin+Bend in Evergreen, CO. 

Pictures courtesy of Basin+Bend

VIDEO: Reintroduction of Native Greenback Trout in Estes Park, CO

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Join Alpine Anglers Trout Unlimited Chapter as they head out to the Big Thompson for a day of fishing. Learn about the important work going on in the area in regards to habitat restoration to help with the reintroduction of native Greenback Cutthroat Trout. Check out the great video below and learn more about what the chapter is doing here.

Learn about fishing the Big Thompson and other waters surrounding Estes Park, Colorado, along with the reintroduction of the Greenback Cutthroat Trout.

Stream Monitoring: What's New?

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A note from National TU Staffer, Kurt Fesenmyer: 

"One great way to take the pulse of your local river is by monitoring stream temperatures. Inexpensive data loggers offer the opportunity to record water temperatures every hour for several years, providing easy access to important information on seasonal patterns, short-term trends, and the impacts of restoration projects or other activities in a watershed.

TU’s Science Team has spent the past few months test driving a new data logger for monitoring stream temperatures. We’re happy to report that the new loggers work very well and should make monitoring your local stream even easier. The new loggers — the Onset TidbiT MX series — are the latest iteration of the reliable Tidbit product line. We are recommending the Tidbit MX2203, which cost just over $100 each.

The new model includes several features that will prove very useful for long-term stream temperature monitoring—they have a four-year battery life under normal conditions and a replaceable battery; they can be launched and their data downloaded using a Bluetooth connection and the free Onset HOBOmobile app; and they have a ‘water detect’ feature that can be used for monitoring stream drying and patterns of intermittency. For more information about the loggers, including basic instructions on calibrating, setting up, and launching loggers, as well as details on how to receive a discount Onset is kindly offering TU volunteers, check out the newly updated Version 3 of TU’s Stream Temperature Monitoring handbook.

The handbook contains some basic guidance on "Why," "Where," and "When" to monitor and is a great starting place for chapters thinking about stream temperature monitoring. Additional resources are available on TU’s stream temperature monitoring resources webpage."

If you are interesting in citizen science opportunities in Colorado. Contact Grassroots Coordinator Dan Omasta, DOmasta@tu.org 

Anglers All 2018 Trout Clave in support of CTU - A Spring Celebration!

Spring has never looked so good! Anglers All's favorite annual event is Saturday, April 21 - the 2018 Trout Clave. Join Anglers All and CTU in a celebration of conservation with live music, food, beer, and of course gobs of fly fishing fun. The event kicks off at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 21 and the party will continue until 5:00 p.m. The event was made possible because of great sponsors, including Patagonia, Sage, and Fishpond, this year’s event is going to be one to remember.

Be sure to get there early for Anglers All's annual half-off fly sale. From 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. only, trout flies are 50% off! But the fun doesn’t end there.

This year, 10% of all store sales the day of the Clave will be donated to Colorado Trout Unlimited in support of Colorado’s fisheries. Furthermore, Patagonia has generously offered to match this donation to CTU!

In addition to Colorado Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Bonefish And Tarpon Trust will also be participating in the Trout Clave this year. In fact, anyone who signs up for a membership to one of these great conservation organizations at the Clave will receive a 10% discount on their purchase.

Breckenridge Brewery will be supplying cold ones, plus there will be food and live music throughout the day. The folks at Breckenridge Brewery will be sponsoring some awesome South Platte River service projects that day, including a river cleanup, pollinator plantings, and installing monofilament-recycling stations along the river. We will be asking for volunteers to signup in advance, so stay tuned for these opportunities.

The Trout Clave is a great chance to catch up with friends and customers and to celebrate a new year of fly fishing adventures. There will be raffles, gear giveaways, and opportunities to chat with product reps from some of your favorite fly fishing brands.

Big thanks goes to Patagonia for their sponsorship, as well as Fishpond and Sage. We look forward to seeing you at the 2018 Trout Clave!

 

Facebook Event Listing: 2018 Trout Clave