Woods Lake Now Home to Native Cutthroat Trout
by Gus Jarvis
Oct 17, 2012 | 1353 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NEW HOME – Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic research scientist Dan Kowalski held one of the more than 260 native cutthroat trout tat were stocked into Woods Lake last month. With an abundance of food and no competition, Kowalski said the cutthroat are expected to grow rapidly. (Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

NEW HOME – Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic research scientist Dan Kowalski held one of the more than 260 native cutthroat trout tat were stocked into Woods Lake last month. With an abundance of food and no competition, Kowalski said the cutthroat are expected to grow rapidly. (Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

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Part of an Overall Cutthroat Restoration Project on the Western Slope



By Gus Jarvis



TELLURIDE – Last month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists stocked more than 250 native cutthroat trout in Woods Lake near Telluride as part of a conservation project aimed to provide anglers a unique fishery where the native species can thrive.

In the summer of 2011, biologists began the project by draining Woods Lake by about four feet and then adding a registered pesticide to remove all the fish living in the habitat, which were mainly nonnative brook and brown trout.

“Native cutthroat trout can’t compete with nonnative, introduced fish,” Parks and Wildlife aquatic research scientist Dan Kowalski said. “Last year we basically got all of the fish out of the habitat and this year we jumpstarted the population of cutthroat trout at Woods Lake.”

The reintroduced trout – 267 to be exact – were captured from a small stream on the Uncompahgre Plateau on the morning of Sept. 20 and transported by horseback and then by truck to the lake.

Once the population is established at Woods Lake, the habitat will provide the broodstock, which will eventually assist in cutthroat conservation efforts throughout the Dolores and Gunnison river basins.  To make sure a healthy population of cutthroats survive at Woods Lake, Kowalski said, biologists will go back to the lake in the summer of 2013 and release several thousand fry, which, along with the spawning adults released in 2012, will make for a healthy and diverse population.     

“We'll do that to give us multiple age classes of fish and to provide good genetic diversity,” Kowalski said. “The biggest thing for us now is getting the population built up, so there’s plenty of fish for anglers to catch. The cutthroat should do great in this habitat. The lake has been fishless for two years and the aquatic invertebrates have exploded, so the lake is full of food for them. Essentially we have taken these fish confined to a tiny little stream and placed them into a wide, open habitat with no competitors.

“The should have excellent growth up there.”

Kowalski said anglers can expect to start catching cutthroat trout in the summer of 2013 from Woods Lake, but it will be a couple of years before there are large numbers of older-age fish to catch. Anglers are encouraged to release all fish they catch for the next couple of years to allow the population to grow. Fishing in the lake and streams above is restricted to artificial flies and lures only.

According to Parks and Wildlife, Cutthroat trout have been eliminated from many rivers and streams in western Colorado, due to habitat loss, water quality impacts and the introduction of nonnative. The native fish, which has been petitioned for listing as an endangered species, can now be found in only about 14 percent of its historic range in the Rocky Mountain West. This reintroduction project is an effort to restore the native trout to its former habitat, expand the fish’s range and prevent the need for an endangered species listing.  

“Restoring these native fish should be important to all citizens and water users in the basin that depend on our rivers for irrigation and drinking water, because a federal listing could affect the state's management of the species and water use in the basin,” Kowalski said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service during the last two summers to remove the nonnative fish from Woods Lake and the tributaries.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is also in the process of another cutthroat restoration project, this one ongoing in the upper Hermosa Creek drainage near the Purgatory Ski Area in San Juan County. When that project is completed, in about five years, more than 20 miles of Hermosa Creek and feeder streams will be home to native cutthroats.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been working on native trout restoration throughout the state for nearly 30 years and our work will continue,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for the southwest region. “This is truly a long-term effort.”

For more information on cutthroat restoration projects, visit wildlife.state.co.us/Research/Aquatic/CutthroatTrout/CutthroatTrout.htm.

   

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

Twitter: @gusgusj

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