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.