Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Second Week with CPW

     September 30th:  Today the goal was to electroshock Henson Creek, a tributary to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.  We were going to shock a section of the creek that was about one mile upstream of Lake City.  The idea was to get a general population sample and species composition of the creek, as well as compare the numbers of stocked to wild fish.  We made the journey to the site and continued to get everything set up, once again the individual electrodes, shocking truck, holding well, live well and all the tools to process the trout.  We got everything set up and began to shock the section.  Due to the high river flow from rain the previous days, we once again got shut out.  With higher flows the electrodes voltage had to be increases.  More water makes it difficult to locate the fish, and then once they do receive a shock the high flows take them downstream very quickly. We quickly realized the flows were much to high and once again got shut down.  I have fished this creek for many years, so I was excited to see the fish it had to offer.  So we packed everything up and checked out a couple of other potential shock sites for the next season.
    October 2nd:  Today was the first day of the Kokanee Salmon spawn at the Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery.  Blue Mesa holds a landlocked/freshwater species of Kokanee Salmon.  Every fall the fish travel all the way up the Gunnison River and then take a left on the East River where they have a five mile or so journey to the hatchery.  The fish are diverted into holding ponds that are connected to fish runways.  Once the fish are in the runways, they are blocked off from downstream.   Then stations are set up to extract the eggs from the females and the milt from the males.  Some of the fish are not quite ready to spawn, so they are released back into the runways and assessed again in a few days.  Once a female is determined ready to spawn, her eggs are squeezed out into a bowl.  Then a male that is determined ready goes through the same process to extract the milt.  Eggs and milt are mixed, given some fresh water, and then sit for about a minute or so.  This minute or so allows the fertilization to occur.  Then the broken or bad eggs are removed from that individual batch, and poured into a main egg holding bucket.  On this particular day we precess upwards of 500 salmon.  About once a week, 100 salmon are taken as samples once they are spawned out.  These were taken back to Gunnion were the Otolith Bones were extracted.  To my understanding, the otolith bone is an inner ear bone in many fish species.  Once they were extracted we placed the bones in individual packets with the fish's sex, weight and length.  These are sent into a lab where the age of the fish can be determined through growth rings, as well as weight, of the otolith bones. A lot more salmon to go!      

First week as intern with CPW

         September 23rd was my first day as an intern for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  I am working with the head aquatics biologist of the Gunnison office, with the main focus of fisheries management in the Gunnison watershed and surrounding areas.  The fall season is a busy time for the aquatics department, as this is the time of year the rivers are low enough to take population samples and the lakes have began to cool down enough for productive fishing.  I will be working with CPW every tuesday and thursday until I fulfill the required hours for my internship.   There are three main areas I will be working as an intern for CPW; trout population samples on specific streams and rivers in the basin, Kokanne Salmon spawning during their annual run up the Gunnison river, and Lake Trout removal out of Blue Mesa Reservoir.   During the first week, Sept. 23rd and 25th, the main focus was electrofishing.  The tuesday I worked we made our way down to Montrose to meet up with some of the biologist and temporary workers for the Montrose CPW office.  Our goal was to electrofish the lower Gunnison River around the city of Delta.  This was going to be an interesting place to sample mainly because of its location.  It is an area that is sort of between the pristine trout fishing waters of the Black Canyon, and the lower more desert oriented river of the lower Gunnison before the confluence with the Colorado River.  This leads to a wide range of fish species occupying the river, everything from brown and rainbow trout to multiple sucker species and endangered species of the Colorado River Basin.  The main focus was going to be on the sucker population, as many species have crossbreed with others.  The idea was to get a general impression of the species composition, especially the multiple kinds of crossbred sucker fish.  There was also a goal to see if introduced species further down the river had made it up to where we were going to be sampling.  Unfortunately everything did not go as planned.  The objective was to launch two rafts that were to float two miles down the river and set up the fish processing location below a diversion dam.  This is an area where a live well would be set up, then fish would be brought to us and we would identify, measure, weigh and tag certain species.   A jet boat launched at the take out of the section, and was supposed to travel up the river to where we had the station.  Unfortunately the water was off color and lower than expected, leading to the jet boat being unable to make it all the way up to us. The plan was for the jet boat to shock certain stretches, and then bring the fish back up to us at the station to take records of them.  Too bad things didn't go as planned, as I was looking forward to seeing the process and the species of fish that would have been shocked.
          September 25th came around and we headed up to Pitkin where we electroshocked quartz creek.  We shocked two different sites, one above the Pitkin State Fish Hatchery and one below it.  We had four people each with there own electrode, one guy maintaining the power source to the truck, as well as two back up netters, one who was dragging a live well. We walked up the stream all four in a line and shocked all the trout habitat we saw.  Each fish was transferred  into the live well and then placed in a large holding net.  A second pass was done at each site, to net all the fish we missed on the first.  Then all the fish were identified, measured and weighed.  30 one year old brown trout were sampled at each site, meaning the heads were cut off to send into a lab.  The whole purpose of this was to asses if the hatchery was having any impact on whirling disease within Quartz Creek.  I was truly amazed at the amount of fish a small section of stream holds.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First Weeks Working with the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition

It has been off to a slow and steady start working with the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC), located in Crested Butte, CO.  As the beginning of fall has arrived, everyone in the coalition has been busy getting their ducks in a row.  They have been getting Watershed Plans together, analyzing their data from summer sampling events, and preparing for the next CCWC meetings.  I have been given access to their Facebook page and official website.  I have been sharing relevant and local environmental articles and videos on the Facebook page.  So far, they have been very popular with the people who follow the page.  Having this insider look is new to me, it is pretty cool to be able to see all of what is going on in the Gunnison Valley-- dealing with water issues.  As for their official website, I have been updating it and giving it a newer, fresher look compared to how it was before.  Zach Vaughter, my supervisor, shared with me that it has been hard to keep up with the website when everyone is busy doing their own share of work for the coalition, along with whatever obligations they have outside of the coalition.  It brings me joy to know that I am the one who the coalition can rely on when they are too busy to do this task.  I am looking forward to what the CCWC has in store for me!