Resurrecting the Greenback, Take Two

February 7, 2019 by Lindsay Fendt for bioGraphic

It’s early October in northern Colorado, and aspen leaves are falling in droves onto the surface of West Creek, a small stream that flows through Rocky Mountain National Park’s southeast corner. Cutthroat TroutRain from the night before has cast a perfectly formed rainbow across the sky and is feeding an invigorated flow of water over the stream’s rocks. The backcountry scene is undisturbed aside from three men slowly plodding along the stream, their equipment emitting a rhythmic beeping over the sounds of the gurgling creek.

Wading in the water is Chris Kennedy, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He wears a sturdy gray box on his back, reminiscent of the “proton packs” from the movie Ghostbusters. With each beep, the pack flashes a red light and emits a pulse of electrical current, which Kennedy guides through the water using an electrode on a pole and a live wire. If done properly, the current will force trout in the stream to involuntarily swim closer to the current where they become stunned, giving Kennedy and his two volunteers a chance to scoop them up with nets.

“If you do it wrong, you get a fish fry,” Kennedy jokes. “If you have a hole in your waders it can be a long day.”

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A Fishy Shutdown Doesn’t Shut Down Leadville Trails

January 6, 2019 by Leadville Today

The sign was propped up against the door of the historic building located just a few short miles south of Leadville Today: “Due to Federal Government shutdown the Leadville Hatchery must be closed.”

As scenes like this continue to play out across the country, the good news is that many committed federal workers are continuing to do their jobs, some without the guarantee of a paycheck. And so it goes for Leadville National Fish Hatchery (LNFH) Manager Ed Stege and his crew. After all, if you’re living above 10,000 feet and trying to keep thousands of fish alive for re-stocking alpine lakes and rivers, a partial government shutdown isn’t likely to stop your efforts.

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Hatchery Happenings, November 2017

By Ed Stege, Project Leader

In some ways it seems this past year has flown by, but when I think back on all that happened in 2017 some of it seems like it was years ago. Aside from re-building the picnic pavilion and the construction project for our fish isolation building, quite a bit happened with our culture activities.

This was our first year to spawn some of our greenback cutthroats using genetic matrixing. Genetic samples were taken from each fish and the genomic sequence processed at the University of Wyoming. Every fish is tagged with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) for individual identification. The idea behind genetic matrix spawning is to cross the least related individuals. When eggs were taken from a female, her tag number was entered into the database and the least related male to cross with identified. By crossing the least related individuals it assists with maximizing the genetic diversity of the offspring. Individual family groups are being raised to develop future broodstock for the hatchery. In addition to the matrixed broodstock eggs, we produced 155,000 greenback production eggs which were transferred to the state hatchery in Salida, Colorado for raising and eventual reintroduction in the wild. Additionally, the hatchery spawned our Carr Creek cutthroat lineage green broodstock producing 426,000 eggs which were also transferred to Salida.

Approximately 76,000 catchable rainbow trout were stocked in Emerald Lake, Twin Lakes Turquoise and Antero Reservoirs in 2017.

Assisting researchers from the Memphis Zoo, a research project titled “Sperm output and body condition are maintained independent of hibernation in an endangered temperate amphibian” was completed on the Wyoming toad. Results from this project should be published in the next couple months. This project tested male hibernation time on sperm quality and quality. For a captive breeding program it is important to know if hibernation is necessary and if so, for how long. Additionally, the hatchery completed a PIT tag retention study. Each adult toad has a PIT tag inserted under the skin for individual identification. We raised a group of toads for up to 2-years testing the retention rate of the tags. With the new smaller 8-mm tags, 100% were retained. A total of 72 adult toads were released in recovery locations in Wyoming. Currently the hatchery is raising some young Wyoming toads to be used in research projects in 2018.