Efforts move trout father away from listing
The threat of Colorado River cutthroat trout being added to the Endangered Species list was pushed another step or two away this summer through several projects undertaken by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) and cooperating agencies.
Two projects were done in the West Tavaputs Plateau area this summer. First, the US Forest Service (USFS) built a barrier in a small stream to stop brown trout from swimming upstream. Brown trout have been moving upstream into a native population of Colorado River cutthroat trout. As brown trout are highly competitive and predatory, the fear is they will eventually take over this native fishery.
Second, the UDWR has plans to treat the stream above the barrier to remove the browns. In preparation for this event, and to obtain fish for a brood stock, the UDWR has been electro-shocking the stream and removing some of the brown and Colorado River cutthroat for the past four years.
During the first three years, the fish were tested for diseases. Once the three-year testing operation was completed and the fish were certified "disease free," the cutthroat were moved to Lake Canyon Lake to establish a brood stock. The browns were transported to the Strawberry River.
Another electro-shocking study has been taking place on Reader Creek in the Uinta Mountains. Garn Birchell has been working on a Master's degree study in cooperation with Utah State University and the UDWR. The study is to determine if high intensity mechanical removal of brook trout will allow a native population of Colorado River cutthroat trout to recover and repopulate the stream.
Throughout the summer, Birchell and volunteers, many of whom are from the USFS, made multiple passes with electro-shocking equipment and removed brook trout from the stream. Plans are to do this again next summer and then evaluate the results.
Another fish barrier was constructed in Mann Creek as part of the cooperative agreement and strategies to recover Colorado River cutthroat on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains. The USFS has worked with the UDWR on a multi-part plan to remove brook trout from the stream and allow the native cutthroat trout to recover.
Besides the barrier, a fence was installed to protect the stream from livestock grazing. The stream was also mapped with GPS equipment to determine the locations of the stream channels and tributaries, including several springs and beaver ponds. The stream was then electro-shocked to remove the cutthroat trout, which were saved for later reintroduction. Then the beaver ponds were breached to allow water to flow through and rotenone was applied through drip stations and hand applicators to remove the brook trout. At the bottom of the treated area, additional drip stations were set up to detoxify the rotenone to protect the fish downstream of the fish barrier.
After the treatment, when the rotenone in the treated section was declared clear, the last step was to reintroduce the Colorado River cutthroat trout that had been captured and held prior to the treatment. This process will be repeated next summer in case any of the smaller fish managed to escape the brook trout treatment.
Another project was the dredging of the inlet at Lake Canyon Lake. This effort was done to allow fish from the lake to move upstream where a fish trap will be placed. Fish from the trap will be used as egg sources for later re-introductions.
During the last week of September, recovery efforts were focused around aerial stocking of Colorado River cutthroat trout in several of the high Uinta Mountain lakes. This is a continuation of a project begun a few years back when eggs from the brood stock at Sheep Creek Lake were taken and hatched in a UDWR hatchery. The fingerlings were then stocked by airplane into the mountain lakes. Through this method, the UDWR has successfully reintroduced native populations into roughly 75 lakes. Other populations have been stocked by truck, including several by the Ute Tribe, who have been given fingerlings as part of the cooperative recovery plan.