The Dolores River Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited is becoming more involved in river health and community events.
The conservation group monitors the Dolores River cold water fishery, and does improvement projects focusing on trout habitat in the upper Dolores Basin.
This fall, the chapter will be installing six temperature sensors at 1,000-foot elevation intervals along the Dolores River.
As climate change in the southwest Colorado shifts to drier and warmer conditions, researchers want to know what the impact will be on rivers and trout habitat.
“The sensors will give us that baseline information to compare against future conditions,” said Duncan Rose, director for the TU Dolores River Anglers. “A limiting factor for trout habitat is water temperature that is too high.”
The sensor program is part of the Cold Water Fisheries Adaptive Management Plan (CAMP) being conducted in cooperation with TU, San Juan National Forest, the Mountain Studies Institute, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and CWCB.
The plan is to co-locate air temperature monitors with the water temperature sensors as the budget allows.
The group also does fin sampling studies to map locations of different trout species throughout the Dolores watershed. A piece of the top part of the tail is clipped for DNA analysis.
The information allows CPW biologists to know where pure strains of cutthroat trout are living and breeding.
The Dolores Basin has 150 miles of tributaries, plus 45 miles of the main Dolores River stem.
Within the waterways are four trout fish species: the non-native German brown trout, the non native brook trout (a type of char), the non native rainbow trout transplanted from the northwest, and the native Colorado River cutthroat trout.
There are 11 streams that contain the Colorado River cutthroat trout strain, Rose said. An exciting recent discovery was of a greenback cutthroat, also a Colorado native, in a remote stream.
Four creeks have the Outstanding Waters designation by the CPW: Little Taylor, Rio Lada, Upper Stoner, and Spring Creek.
TU’s Dolores Anglers are also contributing information to the National Hydrologic Database. They will be taking field trips to determine if creeks and streams are perennial (flow year round) or intermittent.
“This will entail walking and fishing backcountry streams to ascertain if a trout population exists as well,” Rose said.
They also work with the forest service and private landowners to do bank stabilization and fish habitat restoration.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Rose said.
Contact Rose at (970) 570-9905 for more information or if your interested in volunteering or joining the local chapter of Trout Unlimited.