Kowalski is responsible for the management of native and sport fish in the Gunnison, North Fork, San Miguel, and Uncompahgre river drainages.
All the trout in Colorado are descendants of Pacific or Atlantic salmon, but only one, the cutthroat trout, is native to the state. The rugged terrain of their habitat has led to isolation and the development of subspecies, three of which evolved in Colorado: the Colorado River cutthroat trout in drainages west of the Continental Divide, the Greenback cutthroat trout in the South Platte and Arkansas river drainages, and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout in streams that drain into the San Luis Valley.
All three of these species have either been petitioned to be listed or are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act because the introduction of non native trout has dramatically reduced their numbers.
Rainbow, brook, lake, and brown trout were introduced into Colorado between 1870 and 1890 by settlers. Rainbow trout, native to the Pacific Northwest, are now the most common trout in Colorado and a favorite catch of anglers. Brook trout and lake trout are native to the tributaries of eastern North America. Brook trout tend to overpopulate and out compete other species. Brown trout are native to Europe and are widely distributed and well established in Colorado in every lake and mountain stream between 6,000 and 10,000 feet in elevation.
A non-native species of special interest in the Ridgway area is the kokanee salmon, a land-locked Pacific sockeye salmon that attracts eagles to the bridge in Ridgway during their fall spawning run. The DOW Roaring Judy Hatchery is another location to observe these fish in the fall when they travel 25 miles from Blue Mesa Reservoir back to their birthplace.
Whirling disease has become a particular concern for the survival of young trout in Colorado, especially rainbow, brook and all the species of cutthroat trout. Whirling disease is spread by a parasite that attacks the cartilage of young fish causing deformities of the skull and spine. Most infected fish die within three to six months. Currently, there is no cure.
Refreshments at next Thursday’s presentation will include homemade cookies, coffee provided by Mountain Market, and tea provided by Cups. For further information and to offer suggestions for this series, contact Sara Coulter (626-4496, firstname.lastname@example.org) or Shirley Jentsch (240-1319, email@example.com).