Adopt-A-Trout Internship – Always Say Yes!

Always Say Yes 

By Christopher (CJ) Gooderham

If there is one thing that I have learned since college, it is to always say yes.

CJ showing a tag recovered along Tomichi Creek in the fall of 2016

While at a monthly Trout Unlimited meeting, Briant Wiles, the Director of Land Management at Coldharbour Institute, was discussing the Adopt-a-Trout Program and that he was looking for help. He asked me if I would be interested in participating in an internship for the program and I quickly answered with a “yes.” Though I knew little about what I was getting into, I am so glad I said yes, because it has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made since I came to college.

In the following weeks, Colorado Parks and Wildlife would electroshock Tomichi Creek and select 15 trout for the project. Each fish had to weigh at least 500 grams because the tag could not be weigh than 5% of the fish’s body weight, resulting in some fish up to 22 inches! Tags were surgically implanted into both Rainbow and Brown Trout and fish were released at discrete locations along Tomichi Creek.

CJ learning to use the tracking equipment

Release locations of tagged trout on Tomichi Creek.,

After receiving a quick orientation of the telemetry equipment and a field notebook in September, it was up to me to find the remaining fish and document their locations. Over the next few months, I would hike many miles, drive down Highway 50 numerous times, and learn a lot about Trout and their relationship with the ecosystem.

While I did receive a lot of help from Briant Wiles and Jesse Kruthaupt, Trout Unlimited Upper Gunnison Project Specialist, this internship was entirely self-driven. At first, this internship seemed quite daunting because there were so many different rivers and creeks other than Tomichi Creek that the fish could be in. While many of the fish stayed in Tomichi Creek, tags were found at the Neversink area of the Gunnison River and even in Quartz Creek. One fish (Tag-164) had even traveled from Tomichi Creek up to Quartz Creek and then back down to its release location, totaling a 40+ mile journey!

I had found a few tags early on and then in the middle of semester I hit a dry spell. For many days in a row I couldn’t find any fish, and became very discouraged. I hit a point where it almost wasn’t about finding the fish but more about fulfilling the 45 hour requirement for the internship.

One sunny October afternoon, I mustered up the motivation to go out to the State Wildlife Area and get on W Mountain Ranch. My plan was to hike for an hour up this incredibly steep hill for an hour, not detect anything, and then hike all the way down just like the past few weeks. Not expecting much, I finally got to a good high point on the hillside, caught my breath and put the headphones on. Starting at the last known fish, I flipped through the frequencies. Tag-094… nothing, Tag-112… nothing, Tag-142… nothing, Tag-164… BING…BING…BING! Finally after all these weeks I finally got a signal! After a small mountainside celebration, I turned to the next frequency… BING! Another one! By this time I was happier than a toddler catching their first fish ever! Then flipped to another frequency…BING! Three fish, I couldn’t believe it! Finding Tag-164,Tag-184 and Tag-284 all in the same day gave me the confidence and strength I needed to find the few remaining fish. On the last day of tracking, a few weeks before school ended, I found the remaining fish and had one last mountainside celebration.

The Adopt-a-Trout program and the findings of this internship offer much insight into Trout migrations, human impacts, and possible species interactions. The findings show that every fish moved, with a few traveling very great distances through other waterways. A few fish had died from possible human impacts like Tag-203 was found in an irrigation ditch after runoff.

Trout with tag number 149.203 found deceased in an irrigation ditch in the middle of a field

Others may have died possibly from induced stress due to the unusually warm fall this year. Unfortunately, this could become a common occurrence due to our warming climate and the alarming consequences of climate change. A few tags were found under birds nests like Tag-003 which was found a few hundred yards away from Tomichi Creek in a cow pasture under some tall cottonwoods. Tag-142 had a similar fate and was found near the trail at Neversink with some skin and blood still attached to the tag. Predatory birds most likely picked these fish up and ate them, but whether they were dead or alive when they were picked up is unknown.

Maps on the AAT website display the results of the tracking.

 

Water Conservation is becoming increasingly important in our world today and the findings of this program may offer insight into the importance of keeping all rivers healthy, not just a few. Fish can travel great distances, by evidence of fish like Tag-164. Human impacts of any kind to a river not only affect organisms in that immediate river but in surrounding rivers as well. As anglers and conservationist alike, we must be aware of this and made educated decisions on and off the water.

Please visit the Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout website to learn more about each Trout and how far they have traveled! It is a great website that has all of the updated information on every fish involved in the project. I would like to thank Briant Wiles for giving me the opportunity to do this internship and Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well as Jesse Krauthaupt for their assistance. It was a pleasure learning about the Trout living within in the Gunnison Watershed and made me realize how blessed Western Students are to live in such an amazing place.

 

– While CJ was officially an intern for the Coldharbour Institute he has worked closely with the GAS chapter of Trout Unlimited where much of the funds for the project came from. CJ is now a regular attendee at chapter meetings and is taking on a leadership role with the Gunnison Sockeyes (the Western State Colorado University chapter of Trout Unlimited). It was a pleasure to work with CJ for the AAT program and I look forward to many more collaborations in the future. A big thank you to the support provided for the Gunnison Basin Adopt – A-Trout program from New Belgium Brewing, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, GAS, and the Coldharbour Institute.  See the AAT website for the results of CJ’s tracking and the latest updates on where the trout are: http://gunnyaat.wixsite.com/adopt-a-trout

Briant Wiles, President of the Gunnison Angling Society

2016 Superfly

It is that time of year again. Get your team together and register for the 2016 Superfly. We have tons of prizes to give away including fly rods and reels. Come earn bragging rights while supporting local conservation efforts and youth education.

2016 Supperfly

New Adopt-A-Trout Website

We are pleased to announce that the new Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout website is up and running! This new website will serve as a home base for all the information about this exciting research and education project. The website contains maps showing the last known location of the 15 trout tagged this past spring. Including individual maps for each fish with all the tracked locations uploaded. The location of the fish will be updated as often as possible. Areas of the site are still under construction like our education and research pages. But here soon there will be downloadable lesson plans and activity guides. The development of this website will take the AAT program to the next level allowing anyone anywhere to participate. Please take the time to get to know the site and the trout. Fill free to contact us through the website with any comments, concerns, or questions.

Enjoy    http://gunnyaat.wixsite.com/adopt-a-trout

!AAT Website

Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout is off and Running!

A wild trout, groggy from the surgery, slowly swims back to the waters of Tomichi Creek. The trout, a large and decoratively spotted brown, has had a radio frequency transmitter implanted in its stomach cavity the incision closed with skillfully applied stitches. Soon after a group of high school students crowd around an antenna attached by a wire to a shoe box sized receiver listening for the tell tale “ping” of the transmitter. The antenna points to the trout’s hideaway tucked under overhanging willows. The trout and its travels will be tracked for the next year and a half closely followed by the high school students and Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff.

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A groggy brown trout is released back to the waters of Tomichi Creek

A total of 15 adult trout were tagged and released at three points along Tomichi Creek over three days in April of 2016, the culmination of more than a year of planning and fundraising. The Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout program is officially off the ground and underway! This collaborative effort pulled together many partners around a fisheries restoration and youth education originally pioneered by Trout Unlimited.

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Staff members from BLM fisheries work to shock and capture trout on Tomichi Creek

The goal of the program is two fold:

  1. Tag and track trout movements in the lower end of Tomichi Creek to help fishery managers better understand trout habitat and identify and prioritize restoration efforts.
  2. Engage Gunnison area students in a real world research project and involve them in a curriculum that expresses watershed connectivity and to potential careers in natural resource management

The study area is approximately five mile long bounded on the upstream end by the Signal Peak industrial Park downstream to the confluence with the Gunnison River. By seeing where trout go in times of drought or flood we hope to better understand their habitat needs and target areas to improve habitat. This section of Tomichi Creek is typical of many mountain streams in the west as it suffers from degraded habitat quality, seasonally low flows, and increased water temperatures. This section of Tomichi creek has also been added to the state list of impaired water bodies. Since trout need relatively cold clean water and plenty of favorable habitat to survive studying them serves as a proxy to better understand the overall health of the creek.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff performing surgery to implant the radio frequency tag on a large brown trout

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A radio frequency tag is carefully inserted into a brown trout

Gunnison Area students get a unique opportunity to be involved with a real life research project. The students using the scientific method create hypothesis and tests them with the data collected from tracking the trout. They also get the opportunity to go into the field and help gather the data. In addition they are exposed to lessons on geomorphology, entomology, riparian areas, and water resource management. The hope is to give students a better understanding of where their water comes from and how they impact their environment.

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Students from the Gunnison High School hold the tracking antenna listening for the tell tale “ping” of a tagged trout

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Students with Trout Unlimited’s Jesse Kruthaupt record the location of a tagged trout and what type of habitat it is using

Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout Program represents a new way of approaching natural resource issues. A collaborative effort that has had support from Trout Unlimited, Gunnison Angling Society, Coldharbour Institute, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, New Belgium Brewing, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, Gunnison River Festival, and private landowners. By combining the efforts of these different stakeholders as well as engaging the next generation we hope to build broad support and awareness of issues affecting our rivers. As for now the trout will continue to be tracked and more students engaged so that the once groggy trout can shows us how to better live in our environment.

Pteronarcys Reintroduction Project

We’re looking for volunteers to help out again this year to continue the work to reintroduce the Pteronarcys stonefly to the upper Gunnison River here in the Gunnison Valley. We have scheduled Saturday, April 30, for a trip down to Pleasure Park, where volunteers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife employees will collect Pteronarcys from the Gunnison River there. The stonefly nymps will be put in coolers for transport back to the upper Gunnison River where they will be reintroduced. Volunteers will need to bring waders for work on the river that day and we should be done by late afternoon. If volunteers have a high clearance/four wheel drive vehicle that could help transport other volunteers, that would be appreciated.

To join us, please meet at Hurst Hall on the Western State Colorado University campus on Saturday, April 30, at 7 AM to carpool to Pleasure Park. For questions, please contact Kevin Alexander at kalexander@western.edu or (970) 943-3405.

CTU Youth Camp 2016

It’s that time of year again and we’re recruiting for the Colorado TU River Conservation & Fly Fishing Youth Camp. This is the 11th annual camp, and it will be held June 19-24 at the Bar N I Ranch near Weston, CO. The camp is for 14 to 18 year old students, and about 20 campers get to go each year. We’re hoping to sponsor a student this year with full tuition paid by GAS. Please contact us if you know someone who may be interested in attending this year’s camp. The application deadline is May 15. For more information and to download an application, please visit the Colorado TU website via the following link:

2016 Colorado TU River Conservation & Fly Fishing Youth Camp

Gunnison Basin Adopt -A-Trout

Just a quick update the Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout took another leap forward this past week when we successfully tagged and released 15 trout in Tomichi Creek. The trout will be tracked over the next year to better help understand the habitat needs as well as providing a learning opportunity for area students. GAS chapter members will be presenting the project at the upcoming Colorado Trout Unlimited Rendezvous in Glenwood Springs at the end of April. See the AAT update link below for more information.

Adopt-A-Trout Update

 

Casting for Recovery Weekend Retreat at the Redstone Inn

Colorado Casting for Recovery is announcing a weekend retreat for breast cancer survivors. The retreat for women with breast cancer offers a program in Colorado’s Western Slope,  October 14-16, 2016.  We are recruiting BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS to apply to spend a 3 day weekend at the Redstone Inn.  The retreat is open to women of all ages and in all stages of breast cancer treatment and recovery, and is offered at no cost to participants. Casting for Recovery retreats are supported by fundraising from many local individuals and organizations and are in need of continued support.  For more information on Casting for Recovery or to make an online donation or download an application, please visit: CASTINGFORRECOVERY.ORG. The deadline to apply is August 5, 2016. For additional questions, you may also email Trout Unlimited member, Bev Jordi, at: bjordi47@gmail.com.