BLM Colorado

BLM Colorado

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bringing Back Rainbow Trout in the Gunnison Gorge NCA


Bringing Back Rainbow Trout in the Gunnison Gorge NCA


Many fly fishing anglers across the country have dreamed about one day having the opportunity to fish the Gunnison River through the Gunnison Gorge, a National Conservation Area managed by the BLM through the Uncompahgre Field Office in Southwest Colorado.  This gold medal trout water has long been known for producing trophy brown and rainbow trout.  But in the 1992, whirling disease hit and the rainbow fishery in the Gorge collapsed.  Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has worked hard over the past two decades to study the disease and also raise hatchery fish that are negative for whirling disease.


In August of 2016, BLM collaborated with CPW in the stocking of rainbow fry into the Gorge.  CPW hatchery personnel from the Pitkin fish hatchery brought 75,000 fry to the Chukar trailhead.  Here, they were loaded into bags to be transported down the mile long downhill trail to the Gunnison River.


CPW hatchery personnel load fish into bags for transport


Rainbow trout fry getting ready for transport


Each bag weighs 10-15 pounds and there was a total of 65 bags.  This would take many people several trips down the trail to the river so a BLM permitted outfitter was utilized to use a mule train to help get the fish down to the river much quicker than multiple trips with people.


Mules carrying 75,000 rainbows to the river


Local students from the Delta high school fly fishing club were invited to assist in the stocking.  Students got to experience firsthand how fisheries are managed and the different jobs that state and federal agencies have in the environmental field.


Students load stocking bags onto rafts


Once reaching the river, rafts were set up and ready thanks to the BLM Gunnison Gorge NCA River Rangers. They are tasked with overseeing river and camping use in the Gorge while ensuring safety of visitors.  They are experts in navigating the 14 river miles that include class II to IV rapids.


Rafts ready for launch


Fish stocking can be a hard job


Fry are released in grassy flats where they are in slower water.  Here they are better protected from feeding brown trout.


CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio releases a bag of rainbow fry