NM G&F planning cutthroat restoration

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State plans to kill some trout, restore others.

By Bob Morris, Staff writer, The Raton Range.

1/15/02
 
The state Game and Fish Department wants to use a piscicide (fish-killing chemical) to help restore native cutthroat trout to the Costilla Creek, which starts on the Vermejo Park Ranch and flows through the Valle Vidal in Colfax County.

According to Eric Frey, the department’s northeast fisheries manager, officials want to use a chemical called Fintrol to get rid of non-native and hybridized (mixed breed) fish from the headwaters of Costilla Creek and four lakes. The headwater, along with Glacier Lakes and Vermejo Lake #1, are located on the Vermejo property.

The creek flows off that private property through public land, including the Valle Vidal, and eventually flows into the Rio Grande.

Frey said the reason the department wants to use the chemical is to help restore native cutthroat trout to the waters. But in order to do that, the department needs to get rid of the non-native fish first.

He described the brook trout and brown trout in the waters as "competitive fish." These fish spawn, or give birth to newborn fish, in the fall, while cutthroat spawn in the spring. As a result, Frey said, the newborn cutthroat trout are often eaten by the larger brook and brown trout.

Rainbow trout, on the other hand, pose a different problem. The rainbows will breed with cutthroat trout, resulting in the hybridized fish, Frey said, and the department wants to have "pure cutthroat trout" in the waters.

Fintrol contains Antimycin A, which Frey said is derived from "natural ingredients" in trees. Stations are set up along the creek to slowly release the chemical into the water, and a neutralizer is added to prevent harm to other wildlife. Frey said chemicals previously used could kill other wildlife, but with Fintrol, "the amount we use is so minimal" that it doesn’t harm other wildlife.

Frey said the department will work on a two-to-three mile segment of Costilla Creek on the Vermejo property. From there, game and fish officers will do a "spot check" to ensure all non-native fish are removed. Once that is completed, and the chemical is removed from the water, cutthroat trout will be stocked into the creek.

Frey said the other species of trout are in great numbers throughout the state, and those species can "reproduce in quite a few numbers."

The department must first receive approval from the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission before starting this work. A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 15 in Taos. Should the commission approve the project, Frey said, the department will begin work in the spring and complete it during the summer months.
 

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