Colorado Fisherman Forum banner

1 - 20 of 20 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
935 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My wife and I took a friend fishing in the backcountry for small stream cutts.  Really tough hike (long daytrip), but the fish are worth it, especially when every one looks like a piece fine art.  If I've figured this out, you'll see some of that art below.  In my opinion, the cutthroat trout subspecies native to Colorado (greenback, Colorado River, and Rio Grande cutthroats) are the more beautiful than all other trout species.  Brook trout are nice looking, but I would pay more money to keep brook trout from wiping out Colorado's beautiful native trout heritage.

My wife and I are in the first two pictures.  This was my wife's first non-sunfish on a flyrod - thus, the permagrin.













 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
wow those are pretty fish, i like the one above the water the most, you made yourself a nice piece of art there in my opinion. can we get more info on area of where this is at or is the backcountry all we're gunna get? don't think ive ever caught a cutt-troat, but i would like to. any suggestion would be nice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,678 Posts
Awesome pics! gottai love them cutts.....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
935 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
These fish are all greenback cutthroats (the Colorado state fish).  They are recovering due to efforts by state and federal agencies, but are still listed as threatened because they still occupy something around 5% or less of their original range.  The agencies have protected headwaters in many river drainages in the state that hold the majority of what remains of native cutthroats in Colorado.   These headwater populations are usually above waterfalls or water diversion structures that serve as barriers preventing nonnative trout from moving upstream.  So, they are usually the only fish present when you find them, but most of these places are closed to fishing.  So, make sure to check the latest Colorado Fishing Regulations to make sure you're legal.

There are a number of conservation populations around the state, and where these populations are strong, Catch and release fishing is allowed.  Once established, all these populations are managed as wild, so they can't take a lot of fishing pressure.  High elevation streams are not terribly productive, so the fish usually don't get much bigger than 10-11" there, and thir numbers are limited.  In some streams, the populations are so small and and streams so cold (slowing reproduction) that a group of guys ignorant of the fishing regulations could make it a tradition to hike in and eat as many fish as they can catch (which is illegal) on a holiday each year, and wipe out the entire population with one day of fishing over 3-5 years. 

Most of the streams are fairly remote, so you either have to hike far or 4WD to them, but a handfull are quite accessible.  At this time of year, the fish are just finishing up their spawn, so they still have some bright red and orange color left in them.  I saw many fish spawning and did not fish for those that appeared to be staging for spawning.  Barbs crimped for easy hook removal at these streams and you're ready to roll.  Wading is rarely necessary in these small streams, and in addition fisherman would be trampling the redds where trout eggs are incubating over the summer.  Bank fishing is the way to go.  Many times you just need to dip your fly in/on the water.

If you want to catch and release larger greenback or Colorado River cutts, there are some more accessible lakes.  Zimmerman Lake (up the Poudre Canyon - short hike from highway 14) is a great place to catch and release fairly large greenbacks.  Some lakes within Rocky Mountain National Park on the East slope are also good places to catch and release larger greenbacks.

Long Draw Reservoir is a nice place for Colorado River cutthroats.  It's on th east slope, but filled through a canal bringing water over from diversions on headwater streams in the upper Colorado River basin.  It's believed they moved into Long Draw through this ditch (the Grand Ditch).  If you hike into RM National Park near Long Draw, you can see large CR cutts swimming in and spawning in the Grand Ditch.  Later in the year, mid to late August or early September, if you hike there, you will be able to find their fry (about 1-1.5 inches long here and there). 

Trappers Lake, in Western Colorado, is also a good place to catch beautiful big Colorado River cutthroats.

These are different subspecies than those you most likely have caught in the lowland lakes and streams, which are usually stocked yellowstone or snake river cutthroats or cuttbows - these are stocked with rainbows in many lakes and streams across the state.

If you do go fishing for the native cutthroats of Colorado, particularly in streams, please treat them carefully and return them to the water unharmed as quickly as possible. Let's keep these beauties around.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,241 Posts
NICE!!

I'm a sucker for pretty trout pics.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
10,399 Posts
Those are some nice looking cutties, I love how bright they get.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,927 Posts
Nice...I've never caught a greenback but caught a few beautiful colorado river cutthroats in a stream right off the highway today.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,797 Posts
i have always been curious, you stated
These headwater populations are usually above waterfalls or water diversion structures that serve as barriers preventing nonnative trout from moving upstream
if the "waterfalls" prevent movement of the nonnative trout how did the "native" trout get there? are we saying that the waterfalls developed after the natives moved in? or is it that the "natives" were "stocked" by minners and trappers long before

what is the orgin of trout in eastern colorado?

i have heard that somehow a long time ago a high mountain lake on the divide that drained to the pacific had become populated with trout that had moved up stream and then something like an avalanche blocked the outlet causing the lake to spill on the eastslope thus alowing the continued movement of trout to the east?

do you know of any research or documentation regarding this?

thanks for any info
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,018 Posts
A few years back my father-in-law and I went up to Fall River Reservoir for an afternoon of fishing. Take the Fall River exit (one of the first exists after Idaho Springs) and follow the signs about 3 miles to the dirt/gravel 4 wheel drive road. take that road up 12 miles to Fall River Reservoir.

We saw many fish which looked like brook trout swim by the banks and surfacing with no success of landing on our lines. Not 1 bite in 2-3 hours...

Then as we were going back to the truck my father-in-law noticed some red flashes in the small feeder stream we had to cross. When I say small I mean small it was only about 5 feet wide and no more then one foot deep with a few boulders scattered though the middle of the creek causing some white water ripples where the fish were holding. They were beautiful cutthroats. We tossed a small worm in and quickly pulled out 4 12-14 inches. We decided to only to take 2 each for dinner that night.

We left the rest for you guys...If you have a four wheel and would like to be the one of the only ones fishing an alpine lake it is only 1 hour from Denver. You will not be disappointed by the views and maybe just maybe you will catch some too... 

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,488 Posts
I know exactly what creek you are talking about. My dad was a dam inspector for the Dept. of Water Resources. He had a great job, getting to see waters that no human had seen before. Unfortunately, he was not a fisherman. He took me up to Fall River Res. once and it was beautiful. I was thinking of making a trip back there soon, but as I recall, that road is tough and you need a real 4 wheel drive to make it. I don't think my Acura MDX is up to the task.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,018 Posts
We went up in my 2001 Toyota 4 Runner. I never had to put it in 4 wheel just kept it in low gear. When we arrived we were suprised to see 2 Cargo vans (which I doubt had 4 wheel Drive) with about 15 kids in getting into each van. I ask the older driver where they were from he stated they were from a summer camp for disadvantaged kids taking them up to this surreal alpine lake for a day fishing trip of a lifetime. They do it once a summer he stated with each gorup they have. He also told me that he makes a few extra trips to the lake on his days off during the summer and has experienced lights out fishing on the opposite end of the lake accross from the dam where there is another small feeder stream. We never saw another fisherman only one lone hiker that was on the oposite side of the lake. If your MDX is 4 wheel I am sure you will make it was not too bad when we went in the 4Runner which only has 11 inch clearance. Hope you get a chance to get up there again...bring back some memories too I bet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,488 Posts
They must have improved the road quite a bit. Yes, it does bring back a lot of childhood memories. Beautiful place. Thanks for the report.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
935 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
roadkill said:
i have always been curious, you stated
These headwater populations are usually above waterfalls or water diversion structures that serve as barriers preventing nonnative trout from moving upstream
if the "waterfalls" prevent movement of the nonnative trout how did the "native" trout get there? are we saying that the waterfalls developed after the natives moved in? or is it that the "natives" were "stocked" by minners and trappers long before

what is the orgin of trout in eastern colorado?

i have heard that somehow a long time ago a high mountain lake on the divide that drained to the pacific had become populated with trout that had moved up stream and then something like an avalanche blocked the outlet causing the lake to spill on the eastslope thus alowing the continued movement of trout to the east?

do you know of any research or documentation regarding this?

thanks for any info
My appreciation for cutthroat trout has developed through years of fishing for different subspecies as a kid in Washington state, then my studies in fish biology as an adult. There are people who know more than I do, but I have studied cutthroat trout in Colorado for a few years now, and think I can answer some of your questions - at least better than the DOW tends to. In my view, fishermen should have this information available to them, so they don't have to struggle just to get it from some guy on an internet forum.

In some cases we have to assume the waterfalls developed after natives moved in, because the cutthroats have always been reported above them. In other cases, they are man-made structures (like Denver Water Board diversions, or other such structures.  In still other cases, they are natural structures that have been augmented by moving rocks around.

We say they are "native" trout because they are native to the watershed, not necessarily because they are native to the sites where they currently are living.  Many of the populations are "translocated" or moved above barriers.  In some cases, nonnative trout (trout that did not evolve in Colorado) are first removed (either by electrofishing or poisoning), before natives are introduced (or reintroduced).  In many of the cases, however, trout were not known to exist above many of the barriers before man placed them there.  Even most of the populations created by introductions by miners and settlers had become extinct due to overfishing and competition with brook trout by the 1950's.  Greenbacks have been brought back largely by translocation efforts.  Most translocations are done in pretty remote places where they do not interfere with popular fisheries of nonnatives that have developed, and this is intentional on the part of the agencies.  They have to try not to destroy too much public good will while also preserving the native fish.  Because in order to delist the greenbacks.  Catch and release fishing for greenbacks is allowed because in the 1970's, the USFWS downlisted them from endangered to threatened - not because they were coming back, but to allow the state agencies to attempt to manage and restore them.  The state and federal agencies will do almost anything to avoid allowing a species to become listed as endangered, because such a listing creates hard legal limits on what they can do to manage the species.  For instance, killing greenback cutthroats for research is allowed because they are "threatened," and the managing agencies have an approved management plan in place.  If they were still listed as "endangered," it would basically be illegal to kill them, and the state would be powerless to study or manage them, and even catch and release fishing would be prohibited by federal law.  From a management and "on the ground" conservation perspective, a "threatened" listing is much preferred to "endangered" if there is a chance of bringing a species back.

What you describe with the mountain lake and the avalanche is what scientists call a "headwater transfer."  It is a natural process that results in the expansion of the range of fish into new watersheds and possibly across continental divides.  There is geologic evidence that this has happened.  It is different from human introductions because the fish simply move into the new habitat on their own volition when it becomes open to them.  This is thought to be the way that greenback, Colorado River, and Rio Grande cutthroats diverged.  They first transferred across the divide into their new basins, then slowly evolved differences that now mostly distringuish them at the subspecies level.  It is thought that the Greenback and Rio Grande cutthroats are derived from stocks of Colorado River Cutthroat that occupied basins on the east slope through some sequence of headwater transfers.

If you are very interested in the diversity of trout and the best knowledge on how they came to be distributed as they are, you should look at a couple of books by Bob Behnke.  He's a former (retired) CSU professor who is viewed as the world's expert on North American Trout and Salmon.  His books are titled something like:  Native Trout of Western North American (1992), and Trout and Salmon of North America (2002???).  Looking through these books, you can begin to get a real appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the cutthroat trout, which are the only trout that settlers found in the interior west when they migrated to and through this region, until running into rainbow trout and salmon further west.

Cutthroat are one of the most diverse species, being made up of 14 recognized subspecies (of which 2 are extinct).  One of the extinct species was believed to be derived from greenbacks that adapted to life in Twin Lakes in Colorado.  It was called the Yellowfin cutthroat, and grew to very large sizes.  It's lifestyle was more like that of a lake trout, than of a stream trout (like the greenback, which was better adapted for rivers.  Too bad those are gone. 
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
60 Posts
Cutthroat,

Thanks for all that, and especially the reminder to look at Behnke's work some time.

I've seen generalizations along the lines that 2/3 of front range lakes near or above timberline were barren of trout before the local gold rush. Would you say that figure is about right?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,678 Posts
bitafurnfeather said:
Cutthroat,

Thanks for all that, and especially the reminder to look at Behnke's work some time.

I've seen generalizations along the lines that 2/3 of front range lakes near or above timberline were barren of trout before the local gold rush. Would you say that figure is about right?
The 2/3 ratio might be correct, if not even higher i think.  a lot of the lakes that high were planted by air or had fingerlings packed in back by horseback in the 30s and 40s i believe--they just were never in an area where fish were introduced by natural means (feeder creeks, overflow, or what not) so they never held fish.  This is just what i have read of course, i am no expert on the subject.

Just yesterday i hiked up to a few high elevations lakes and wondered if they could sustain fish life as they were so high up they remain frozen most of the year and didnt seem to have any visible bio mass to support any fish population. Some of them seemed so isolated that i wondered if they held any fish at all. if they did i would think they were most likely planted there by man, not introduced by natural means...
 
1 - 20 of 20 Posts
Top