Colorado’s Animas River to Receive 100,000 Rainbow Trout Annually

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In an effort to improve the fishery in Colorado’s Animas River through Durango and the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, three agencies are working to stock 100,000 rainbow trout in the river annually.

In early July, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe spread the fish in the river from Santa Rita Park in Durango to Bondad about 16 miles south of Durango. The fish were 5-6 inches in size.

The fish stocking is paid for by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as mitigation for the removal of water from the Animas River to Ridges Basin Reservoir, also known as Lake Nighthorse. An agreement on a stocking and monitoring program was developed by the BOR, the Southern Ute Tribe and the DOW.

The fish are being raised at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national fish hatchery in Hotchkiss. An additional 50,000 trout, 10 inches in size, will be raised at the hatchery and stocked annually in the reservoir. Stocking in the reservoir will start this fall.

The stocking and monitoring of the fish will be performed by the DOW and the Southern Ute Tribe.

“We are really excited about the agreement because everyone gets something out of the deal,” said Jim White, DOW aquatic biologist in Durango, “The Southern Utes get a healthier fishery, we get stocking extended into the Gold Medal reach of the Animas River, and the BOR gets some of their environmental commitments covered through our fish survey work.”

The agreement will enhance the cooperative efforts of the tribe and the DOW in maintaining a healthy fishery in the Animas River.

“The agreement allows all parties to decide how best to manage these stocked trout using the information gathered during our coordinated fish surveys,” said Steve Whiteman, director of wildlife resource management for the Southern Utes. “If our current stocking parameters are off in some way, there is now a formal mechanism in place to address problems and do what is best for the resource.”

As stocking efforts continue every year, more and more of the fish stocked will be the whirling-disease resistant strain of rainbows that are being developed by DOW at its hatcheries. Aquatic biologists hope that those fish will begin to reproduce naturally in a couple of years. This is the second year that fish have been stocked in the river.

DOW and Southern Ute biologists will conduct surveys in the river to determine how many of the stocked fish are surviving.

The BOR began pumping water from the Animas River into the reservoir in 2009. Agency officials expect that the reservoir will be filled to capacity by mid-summer 2011.

source: Colorado Division of Wildlife