Sunday, May 12, 2013

Customer service

     Here are a couple emails (from the same person) which I received recently which really stood out from the crowd. They are all-time classics, so I thought I would share them here:

I'm a 11 year summit county local and would consider myself to flyfish far more than others. Far more. I know the Blue River system top to bottom and I have no clue as to why you would have a 2 fish limit below silverthorn to Green Mtn. There really aren't any fish there and the ones that are there can be big...why are you choosing to kill off this fishery in a drought year?  I haven't seen your latest shocking survey for this section but I can say from my experiences, this section, of almost 12-15 miles of river, is almost dead - in public water at least. Did you see the catch rates from the fly fishing championships last summer - it was horrible!

A 2 fish limit is completely unreasonable and tells me a little more about the mgt. I clearly remember the whirling disease / stocking program fiasco. Don't kill this resource for so many.

The second email:

I am looking for supporting documentation and an explanation to justify the 2 fish over 16inch limit on the Blue below silverthorne to Green Mountain. There are hardly any fish in this section of the river - and your management survey clearly shows that fish don't do well the farther downstream of the dam that you go. How can you possibly have a regulation like this in place? Licenses are never checked and bait containers are everywhere. All of this aside, how can you possibly justify a 2 fish regulation like this? My next correspondence, if I don't receive an
answer, is to the newpapers in Colorado. They would love to jump on this.    

     I have to admit, I was pretty stumped at first as to how to go about responding to these emails. I would love to have any of the readers of this blog put yourself in my shoes and let me know how you would respond if you were me.

     This past week, we did a few more days' work on the river, which will pretty much conclude our mainstem river work for the spring. This week we'll be getting the gillnets out and switching to lake/reservoir mode. On Monday and Wednesday, we did something that hasn't been done for a long time: we ran a spring raft electrofishing survey of the Paul Gilbert and Lone Buck units, right below our office. There was just barely enough water to float my 14-foot electrofishing raft, so we went for it. The results were very encouraging.
     The reason I decided to run this survey was mainly to see what kind of numbers of rainbows are showing up to spawn, with the success of the HXC plants over the past couple of years. Historically, wild spawning rainbows were collected in that reach of river and spawn was taken in order to provide rainbows for other waters around the state. Right now we're using a captive broodstock at the Glenwood Springs hatchery to provide our HXC eggs, but a wild broodstock operation has more advantages if it's possible. For one, wild fish are all subjected to the natural selection pressures that are present in a wild environment, and so you should end up with a fish that is better adapted to that environment, in comparison to fish derived from a captive broodstock. It's also far cheaper to obtain eggs from a wild brood - all the hatchery costs associated with maintaining that captive broodstock go away. So I wanted to see if we're anywhere near even being able to consider the idea of collecting eggs at this location, or how many years out we might be.
     Anyway, on Monday, the 6th, we handled about 700 fish from the Byers Canyon bridge down to the downstream end of the public water at Lone Buck. About 100 of those were rainbows. That may not sound like much, but it's the largest proportion of rainbows I've ever picked up in any survey on the Colorado River  in my time. I don't have the population estimates calculated yet (won't for a long time) but it looks very encouraging. Only about two of the rainbows we collected appeared to be pellet pigs. Everything else had strong wild characteristics. Timing-wise, the biggest females (the ones around the 16" mark - these are apparently the 2010 year class that I stocked) were mostly spent. The year class younger than them, though, were still pretty green. This is the 2011 year class that I stocked, and they're up to about 12" now. They were by far the strongest year class present. I think a lot of those smaller females will go ahead and spawn this year - they're just running later since it's their first year.
     Take a look at this gorgeous 2010 male, ready to party:

     And here's an obligatory stomach-content series, a particularly awesome one at that:

     That guy had eaten his lunch in the more-traditional head-first manner, as opposed to those weirdos we ran a cross down at State Bridge the week before that were eating fish tail-first.

     All right, one other topic for today. A comment from Brian Young:

I was curious whether there had been any discussion about reintroducing stoneflies to the Upper Colorado. Sounds like they had good success down on the Arkansas with reintroduction, and they used Colorado River stoneflies. I know the water regs may still not allow for survival, but even that would be an important finding at some level. 

I could arrange for some private landowners (downstream from Lake Granby) to have the reintroduction done on their property if that is easier to control and evaluate than doing it initially on public water.

Brian Young

     Thanks Brian, that's a great question. It's an idea that we have been kicking around and it's definitely on the table. However, here's the short answer for the moment. The species we're talking about - Pteronarcys californica - is present in that area, just in such low numbers that they are not really noticeable, and they do not constitute a major food source for the trout at this time. But you can find them in low numbers if you look in the right spots. We know that was not the case historically. They used to be very dense and were the most important food source, all the way to the town of Granby and above. So something has changed drastically in the past 30 years. Each female produces around 1,000 - 1,400 eggs, according to the literature. So - knowing that we have a kind of sparse, "baseline" or "latent" population, if you will, that tells us that if the conditions were favorable, they would easily return to their historic densities on their own. The bottom line is that we've got a habitat problem in the river that far upstream. The cobble riffles where these guys live are heavily embedded. Until that changes, there is no reason to believe that they will be successful if we just dump a bunch more in that part of the river. That's a very different situation than down on the Arkansas. There, we know that metals wiped them out, and we know that the metals have since been cleaned up. Nothing has changed on the upper Colorado to improve the conditions for this species. However, the bright point on the horizon is that the mitigation agreements that are being hammered out with the water providers right now call for quite a bit of in-channel habitat work to address this exact issue. If and when that finally happens, we will absolutely be moving nymphs into the improved river channel reaches after the work is done. There is no reason to do so prior to that. Hopefully that makes sense.


  1. All, I ran the population estimate quickly today on just the rainbows on the Paul Gilbert/Lone Buck reach that we surveyed the other day. Estimate comes out to 314 adult fish. May not sound like a lot, but just a couple years ago the estimate for the entire Kemp-Breeze SWA was 62 rainbows.

  2. Nice Blog , thanks for shareing the information