Herman Gulch Trout Salvage Project

By Rick Dornfeld
On September 11, 2015, 24 hardy volunteers from West Denver TU and The Greenbacks Chapter joined with a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) crew at Herman Gulch. We stretched our muscles, seared our lungs, and caught trout for relocation.  110 trout were moved to Clear Creek.After much planning and paperwork by CPW and the US Forest Service, this angling day was an enjoyable on-the-ground step towards restoration of native greenback cutthroat trout. The decades of greenback recovery work championed by Dr. Bob Behnke and implemented by several public agencies is acknowledged as prologue to the current work. The difference today is that greenbacks that will go into Herman Gulch are genetically most similar to late 1800’s museum specimens of native trout that inhabited Front Range waters.After Colorado Parks and Wildlife electro-shocks one of the 5 reaches for fish relocation,the next step leading to Herman Gulch greenback trout restoration will be a September 30, 2015 rotenone application to remove all remaining fish. This work will be conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Stocking the native greenbacks will take place in 2016 and 2018.   See CTU and WDTU volunteer opportunities here.
Boyd Wright, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Native Aquatic Species Biologist explained our objective for the day: catch, keep alive, and remove, resident trout for relocation to Clear Creek. 




DSCN1523Tim Toohey, WDTU President, and chapter member John Pern discussed plans for the day at the Herman Gulch trailhead. John took all the photos for this article.





ClimbingHermanGulchThe trailhead elevation measured at 10,320 feet, and that’s where we started. Then there was a steep climb to get above the cataracts on Herman Gulch. Pairs of fishermen each carried a bucket for trout collection, as well as gear





1Above the creek cataracts, the trail leveled out to a more manageable grade for walking.






2Boyd’s plan separated the creek into five reaches to fish. Each reach was about a half mile in length. Four to six fishermen worked each reach. Here Dennis Wiles is shown fishing in reach 5, the farthest reach from the trailhead.





3Boyd stationed technicians within each of the five reaches to pick up fish and carry them in buckets to mesh pens for temporary holding.






4This is what was being caught…..cutthroats of mixed lineage.






CuthroatsavedMesh pens such as this one were set up in the creek by CPW technicians.






6It surprised many of us that a little creek like Herman Gulch held trout of this size. We had joked at the chapter meeting that we would be taking a long walk to catch short fish.






7Fishing was halted, as planned, at 1330 hours. Fish were loaded into buckets, or into plastic bags, and carried back down to the trailhead.






8At the trailhead, fish were loaded into a truck-mounted aerated tank.






9Fish survival down the trail was very good. Once in the aerated tank, the fish looked relaxed and happy. The tank truck took the trout a short distance to release points on Clear Creek.





10Relaxed and happy also described all of the volunteers who took part in the trail-head lunch prepared by Tim Toohey, Linda Miyamoto, and John Murphy.