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Habitat Protection Vital To Native Trout

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Greenback Cutthroat Trout - photo USGS Greenback Cutthroat Trout - photo USGS

News that lineages of Colorado's native cutthroat trout historically occupied different waters than was previously thought, and that genetically pure native greenback cutthroat trout only persist in one small Arkansas River tributary, highlights the importance of habitat protection when it comes to native trout persistence in the state, according to David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited


"After all the past stocking and all the manipulation to Colorado's trout fisheries over the last century or so, it's remarkable that we still have truly pure native trout to conserve," Nickum said. "That said, we have some real challenges in front of us if we are to make sure greenback cutthroat trout—and the chance to fish for them—are part of our long-term future."

According to a University of Colorado study released Monday, Bear Creek, located southwest of Colorado Springs, is home to the only pure population of greenback cutthroat trout remaining in Colorado. The greenback cutthroat trout is Colorado's state fish.

Not coincidentally, Trout Unlimited is working with agency partners and motorized and non-motorized bike users to better protect Bear Creek in the face of growing problems with sedimentation. This on-the-ground, collaborative work is now more important than ever—other populations of cutthroat trout previously believed to be greenbacks in the Arkansas and South Platte drainages of the state are now thought to be cutthroats from lineages that were historically found on Colorado’s western slope.

TU is a committed financial sponsor of the study released today by Dr. Jessica Metcalf and her co-authors. The study by Dr. Metcalf has helped unravel the complex history of habitat loss and stocking that had masked the historical distributions of Colorado's native cutthroat—since the 1880s, a veritable smorgasbord of trout species have been stocked in Colorado's waters. Brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout—all non-native species—have been a part of the Colorado angling menu for generations, but only cutthroat trout are native to the state.

"Native trout are a priceless part of Colorado's natural heritage, offering unique opportunities to fish for trout that have called the Rockies home for thousands of years and are adapted to Colorado's environment," Nickum said. "TU remains committed to the restoration of native trout throughout Colorado—and around the country—wherever it's both possible and practical."


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Comments (4 posted):

Editor on 25/10/2012 10:24:50
Talking of native trout, has anyone ever attempted any of the trout challenges that several state DFG have issued where you try to catch as many of the local species as possible and get a certificate if achieved? Always thought that sounded like a great reason to go fishing, get to see (hopefully) some cool species that you might not other come across and end up with a nice wall hanging if all works out!
mcnerney on 25/10/2012 13:24:41
Paul Wyoming has a Cut Slam program where they present you with a beautiful certificate if you can land and show evidence of landing all four sub-species of cutthroats in the state. So far I have three of the four, missing the Bonneville Cutthroat......now that I live on the west side of the state that should be pretty easy. Here are the details to the Wyoming cutthroat program: Wyoming Game & Fish Department Larry
Editor on 26/10/2012 09:06:42
Yep that's the sort of program I meant Larry - the artwork on those certificates is really nice. I seem to remember there was one up in Northern California that someone wrote an article about many years ago when I was still down in San Diego (sigh). I thought that would be a brilliant week or two spent exploring little remote streams and other waters hunting down the different fish.
noreaster on 26/10/2012 09:51:56
I agree completely. Here in PEI, governments records of watershed protection are shameful. We have a few real wonderful conservationists who, a number of years ago, put together a round table committee and report, laying out recommendations that would have protected all our watersheds properly. It was received by the province. They made a couple little improvements here and there, and promptly shelved it. Since that time we have suffered dozens of catastrophic fish kills, wide spread siltation and loss of habitat from agriculture run off, damage to many estuaries from muscle farming, anoxia or clouding of waters from algae blooms related to unhealthy water temps. and a build up of nitrates once again from improper land use practices. I don't blame farmers, rather the province for being irresponsible with our resources. Most ironic though is what is on our license plates "Canada's Green Province" Should be Canada's Green Gables Province instead.:rolleyes:
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