EMPIRE, Colo. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) said 6,000 greenback cutthroat trout fry were stocked into the Upper West Fork near Jones Pass on Wednesday.
This is the third location in the Clear Creek drainage basin stocked by the Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team this year after Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch.
Officials said there have been extensive efforts made over the past 14 years to provide new habitats for greenback.
"Over fourteen years of stream health data was collected, an old mine site was remediated, and stream banks were restored to allow for habitat that is suitable to sensitive aquatic life and now a new home to the Colorado State Fish, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout,” said Valerie Thompson, south zone fisheries biologist for the U.S. Forest Service.
CPW said the tributary was a good candidate for greenbacks for multiple factors, including its lack of other fish.
“We’ve done temperature monitoring and the temperatures are conducive to support natural reproduction,” said Paul Winkle, an aquatic biologist for CPW. “It is a goal to get another population of fish on the landscape, so this is definitely an important thing for the recovery of greenbacks.”
The fork was fishless due to downstream barriers including a quarter-mile long culvert underneath the Henderson Mine site, and other natural barriers. That meant other non-native fish spices did not need to be removed, which is necessary for the reestablishment of greenbacks.
“We knew that there were no fish in that section of Clear Creek and what a great thing to be able to put fish in without having to do a reclamation,” Winkle said. “The more streams of greenbacks we stock along the Front Range drastically improves the conservation status of the species.”
Greenbacks, the official state fish of Colorado, are listed as threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and are native to the South Platte River drainage basin.
They were believed to have gone extinct twice before University of Colorado researchers discovered the last remaining wild population of greenback cutthroat trout in 2012 in Bear Creek, where they still reside.
They have also been stocked in the East Fork of Roaring Creek and Zimmerman Lake, both within the South Platte River basin.
The fork was stocked with the help of the U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited and many volunteers, CPW said.
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