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Restoring The Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Restoring The Greenback Cutthroat Trout

It’s quite the haul up to Zimmerman lake from Denver, but a few of us Greenbacks made the almost three hour trek to participate in something we’ve looked forward to for a long time. As we arrived at the trailhead, Colorado Parks and Wildlife along with the US Fish and Wildlife were poised with trucks containing 1,200 pure greenback cutthroat trout ready to be introduced to their new home.

You see, in the 1930’s the greenback cutthroat was thought to be extinct due to over fishing, pollution, and development. However, in the 1970’s, scientists discovered what they thought were populations of greenback trout. They began using these populations as the brood stock for spreading the fish around the Front Range, and in 1978, the trout was downlisted to ‘threatened’. But through recent genetic testing, scientists at CU Boulder found that the ‘greenbacks’, which were now commonly found throughout Rocky Mountain National Park were more linear to the Colorado cutthroat trout, not the greenback cutthroat. They did find a small stream outside of Colorado Springs, Bear Creek, which did hold a very small population. Sample fish were taken, and a new brood stock was created.

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Finally, on August 8th, through hard work at the Leadville National Hatchery, 1,200 of these state fish were ready to be reintroduced to the wild at Zimmerman lake.

“We were very excited to be a part of this significant day in the return of the greenback cutthroat trout to the South Platte Basin”, said Nick Hoover. “It’s one of the most amazing experiences we’ve done in conservation, and I’m excited for the future of the greenbacks here in Colorado and I’m thrilled we will be taking on an active role in their reintroduction in the months and years ahead”.

The schedule was tight, and there was a lot of media present. We got down and dirty by helping with the actual process. All of us had an opportunity to help with fin clipping, and actually putting these fish into the water. It was a systematical process.

A portion of the fish were taken for further study. They were measured, weighed, clipped, and documented for further analysis in the future.

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This was by far one of the most important things we’ve done as the The Greenbacks. The fish will be monitored and checked next summer to see how they’re doing in the wild.

Here is their new home. Stay tuned for more, as this won’t be the only place we’re helping to reintroduce our state fish.

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Here are a few more pictures from our day. Thank you to everyone who has put in the hard work to make this happen.

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Photos: Kyle Perkins

Written by Kyle Perkins

  • Christopher Hartzler

    Great news! Congratulations to everyone involved on a job well done. It’s always great to see native wildlife restoration, it gives some hope to the places that haven’t seen it yet. As a caretaker to a trout stream in PA, I know helping preserve a natural resource is very rewarding, and something we all hope more people get involved in doing.

  • http://cpw.state.co.us Jennifer Churchill/CPW

    Hi Kyle–one point of correction–The current regulations at Zimmerman Lake require fishing by flies and lures only and all fish have to be returned safely back to the water immediately. This regulation remains in effect and will be monitored closely for compliance. Thanks!