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Bear Creek critical to Colorado's Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Posted at 8:44 AM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 10:44:17-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — June is an important month for the future of Colorado’s threatened greenback trout. It is when the fish spawn and aquatic biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) work to create a larger, healthier fish population during the reproductive process.

An essential location for the effort is Beak Creek on the southwest side of Colorado Springs.

“This creek was at one point the only wild population of greenback cutthroat trout left in the state,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist, Cory Noble, “So, it’s an extremely precious resource and we don’t want to take any risks.”

The wild Bear Creek fish help breeding programs by diversifying genetics in hatcheries. “Stripping out eggs and sperm from them and use that to improve the quality of brood-stock in hatcheries,” said Noble

Catching the wild fish requires a lot of patience. The job also happens with many precautions to protect the fish and their habitat. Only crews with carefully sanitized clothing and gear come in contact with the water.

Teams of three slowly work their way up designated segments of Bear Creek using a catching strategy called electro fishing. A electic probe in the water attracts fish and then stuns them with a mild electric charge. They float to the surface and are quickly scooped into a net.

For the best survival success, eggs have to be fertilized at a work station set up to the side of the stream. They are then carefully packed for transport.

Fish sperm called milt is also processed for transport to hatcheries. A small amount can fertilize thousands of eggs from brood stock fish.

Fish born at hatcheries get stocked mostly in tributaries of Colorado’s South Platte drainage “To restore the species out in the rest of the state,” said Noble. It is an effort to return the species to its original Colorado home.

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