Native cutthroat trout restoration project continuing in Southwest Colorado
Credit: CPW News Release
DURANGO, Colo. – Restoration of native Colorado River cutthroat trout in the Hermosa Creek area north of Durango is entering its final phase, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced.
On July 24-25, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will treat sections of the main stem of Hermosa Creek and East Hermosa Creek to eliminate non-native fish. The restoration project is a partnership effort of CPW and the San Juan National Forest, with assistance from the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
“Restoration of native cutthroat trout is a priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and this is a real milestone in the state’s Colorado River cutthroat trout recovery program,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW. “The project was started more than 25 years ago on East Hermosa Creek. In another year nearly 30 miles in four interconnected streams will be home to Colorado River cutthroat trout. This is one of the largest native cutthroat trout restoration projects in Colorado.”
CPW has been working on cutthroat trout restoration projects throughout the state for years. Restoration work is done to assure that native trout remain a sustainable and important part of Colorado’s natural environment.
Rotenone, an organic chemical that is used throughout the world for fish management projects, will be applied to the water. Another chemical is added to neutralize the Rotenone at the terminus of the treatment area. The two areas to be treated are: Hermosa Creek below Hotel Draw Creek to just below the confluence with East Hermosa Creek and on East Hermosa Creek from the barrier below the falls to just below the confluence.
The treated areas will be void of fish until next summer. After the spring run-off in 2019, CPW biologists will check the streams to assure non-native trout have been eliminated if none are found, Colorado River cutthroats will be stocked next summer.
During the treatment operation, anglers can fish above Hotel Draw and above the waterfall on East Hermosa Creek. The Hermosa Creek Trail has been closed because of the 416 Fire, so the creek below the confluence is inaccessible at this time. Plenty of fishing is also available nearby on Lime Creek and Cascade Creek.
Native cutthroat trout are restored in headwater streams where the water is pristine and free of whirling disease. Pure native cutthroat trout are not stocked in major rivers because they cannot compete with established rainbow and brown trout populations.
As part of the restoration project, the U.S. Forest Service has constructed three barriers which prevent non-native fish from migrating upstream. The agency has also done extensive habitat restoration work along Hermosa Creek.
In the sections that have already been reclaimed, the native trout are thriving. A survey completed in 2017 showed that more than 400 fish per mile inhabit Hermosa Creek. All cutthroat fishing in the area is catch-and-release and by fly and lure only.
To learn more about CPW’s work to restore native cutthroat trout throughout the state, go to: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchCutthroatTrout.aspx.