By Matt Kroschel
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – An army of volunteers is working to bring back an endangered fish to Colorado waterways after years of habitat destruction and humans making it hard for the special little fish to survive. The greenback cutthroat trout is Colorado’s state fish — and was once thought to be extinct.
Decades of extensive recovery and conservation efforts continue with efforts like what is happening in Clear Creek County this week, as volunteers help with introducing the fish into lakes and streams in their native range.
On Wednesday, volunteers hauled backpacks filled with fish in plastic bags up Herman Gulch Trail to release them in the creek.
The group released 900 fish and an additional 800 at a nearby creek earlier in the week.
The fish are raised in a Colorado Parks and Wildlife hatchery in Salida before being sent out to live in the wild. Greenback cutthroat trout produced at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Leadville National Fish Hatchery support the CPW fish hatchery.
Paul Winkle is an aquatic biologist for CPW and says these efforts will bring back the rich diversity to mountain streams.
“This project will hopefully lead to the fish repopulating their natural environments,” Winkle said.
It’s a bit like getting a gold fish from the pet store. The fish are brought from the hatchery in a big truck, loaded into plastic bags that are filled with oxygen and then sealed for the hike up the trail to the creek.
“I like to fish but this is more important because these are in danger,” Trout Unlimited volunteer Greg Hardy said.
For volunteers it’s an effort in love and conservation along with a great reason for a beautiful hike in the Colorado mountains.
“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” Winkle added.
Sometimes it just takes people coming together to pull off an operation like this.