As a child living along the dry and arid banks of the Rio Grande in Las Cruces, NM our family vacations usually meant heading to the hills of San Patricio and Ruidoso for a little camping and fishing. We would camp on my great great tia’s homestead along the Rio Ruidoso catching brown trout on worms. When I got older I found that there were plenty of brook trout that hid in the creek at Three Rivers Campground and while I was in college at Tech we used to fish Bonito Lake for stocker rainbows. During those adventures it never occurred to me that I was fishing for trout that had been planted. I wasn’t fishing for native and in many cases for wild fish. They were just something on the other end of the line that usually ended being eaten.
Recently Trout Unlimited has just completed a new strategic plan to start pushing the reintroduction of wild and native trout back into traditional watersheds. Below is a quick video.
I do want to stress that it isn’t about reintroducing native fish and then not allowing people to fish for them. It is about growing the fishing opportunities for a unique species.
As many of you know I have a special interest in the trout of southern NM. In the Gila we have our Gila Trout but I wasn’t sure what or even if there was a native trout fish in the Lincoln National Forest. After chasing a few leads, I was able to find out that the native trout in the Lincoln NF is the Rio Grande Cutthroat(RGT).
So now we had a fish but are there any fish left? I have heard rumors that the Mescalero Apaches had been playing with them but I couldn’t confirm. So I contacted Jeff Arterbern of the Gila Rio Grade Chapter of TU, he said that I was in luck, well kind of. He said that Larry Cordova a Biologist for the Lincoln National forest had told him that there is a considerable effort to introduce native RGT’s back into their traditional watersheds. Larry mentioned that the Little Bear Fire of 2012 had killed many of the streams in the Lincoln and that they were trying to use it as a reset, for my little fish. In other words, the ash flows and floods had removed many of the non-natives and that we have been given and opportunity to reintroduce RGT’s.
Like any investment the first step is to reduce any potential risks. Larry invited Jeff and me on a “Fish Barrier Assessment” that was going to be conducted with the Dept. of Game and Fish and a “Contractor”.
Below is a picture of one campgrounds that was lost:
What does a fish barrier do? It isn’t magic it is basically a structure that is placed in the stream that allows fish to move downstream but doesn’t all fish to run upstream. The idea is that you protect the fish above the barrier from the non-natives below. In this case we wanted to keep the brookies, browns and rainbows below the barrier. As a point of context; brookies tend to multiply in high numbers and overrun the habitat, browns will eat the RGT’s and rainbows will breed with the RGT’s and weaken the genetic purity of the RGT’s.
Here is the team looking at a potential spot:
So what does the future hold? I have no doubt that we will be fishing for RGT’s in the Lincoln in the future. When, I am not real sure but I do know that the Little Bear Fire has provided us a unique opportunity that we need to and will take advantage of.
Here is a cool picture of the team minus Larry…