Spawning native cutthroat trout efforts
Program tries to bolster Wyoming native trout populations
December 4, 2005
(Pinedale) Each June, Wyoming Game & Fish Department (G&F) biologists catch up with spawning native cutthroat trout in western Wyoming waters in an effort to collect eggs for hatcheries.
"The product of wild spawning operations help increase opportunities to fish and eat cutthroats," said Mark Fowden, assistant Fish Division chief. "That's important to those anglers who like to eat trout."
He adds it is nice to have native fish as sport fish. Evidence of that is the popularity of Wyoming's Cutt-Slam Program, which awards anglers for catching all four subspecies in their native waters. To date, 340 anglers have completed the 'slam' and received the 18-by-24-inch certificate featuring color artwork of all four subspecies.
Yellowstone National Park
Since 1993, the spawning crew has drawn a crowd on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. With the tourist season underway in early June, up to 200 spectators watch red shirts dip net Yellowstone cutthroat trout out of the backwaters of the LeHardy Rapids section of the river, right below the highway.
Fish are netted Monday through Wednesday, held in downstream cages and then removed of some of their eggs and milt, or sperm in fish terms, on Thursdays.
"As part of the agreement with the park, we just partially spawn the fish by only removing approximately 10 percent of the eggs or milt from a fish," said Brian King, spawning operations coordinator. "That's so the fish can still spawn in the wild after release and contribute to the wild population."
Drought hampered efforts some years when fish were forced to stay in the main channel and crews have to suspend operations when the rare harlequin duck uses the rapids for courtship. But with the park's help over the last 12 years, the spawning efforts have built the hatchery brood stock up to the level it can produce 1.5 million fish annually. With that goal met, King says his crew does not plan to resume LeHardy operations until 2012.
North Piney Lake – Wyoming Range
Immediately after ice-out, two G&F spawners helicopter - lingering deep snow prevents foot access - into North Piney Lake in the Wyoming Range. After a week of trap netting and casting flies and spinners for the western version of the Colorado River cutthroat, the team is relieved by another crew.
The annual goal of this two-week high-country effort is to fly out 25,000 eggs in insulated water jugs. The long-term goal is to repopulate the entire LaBarge Creek drainage with this product beginning in 2007. Since 2004, the Game and Fish has been purging the drainage of its non-native fish to restore the Colorado River cutthroat to a portion of its ancestral range. The efforts are designed to help the subspecies avert future attempts to place it on the federal threatened species list and give anglers more opportunity for native trout. Western Colorado River cutthroat production also supplements other upper Green River waters.
Daniel Fish Hatchery stock
In June 2007, King will begin efforts to recruit brood stock of Bear River or Bonneville cutthroat trout for the Daniel Fish Hatchery. Water Canyon Creek, north of Cokeville will first be checked as a source of eggs for the subspecies inhabiting the extreme southwest corner of the state. Giraffe and Raymond creeks are also possible Bonneville producers.
Snake River Cutthroat – North of Jackson
Of the four subspecies, the Snake River cutthroat is the most established in the Game and Fish hatchery system. Every five years a trap is set in Bar BC spring, a tributary of the Snake River, north of Jackson where crews partially spawn the comparatively small-spotted subspecies. In coordination with the landowner, King and crew plan to visit Bar BC Spring in 2008.
Other Stocking: Meadow Lake, Soda Lake, Wind River Range, New Fork Lake
Non-native cold-water brood stocks are also supplemented by wild fish. In between cutthroat operations, King and crew spawn grayling at Meadow Lake, brook and brown trout at Soda Lake, golden trout at high mountain lakes in the Wind River Range, kokanee salmon at New Fork Lake and some years lake trout at Jenny Lake.