Imagine taking in the crisp air while listening to the soothing flows of a small and remote mountain stream. Do you see some fish swimming around with a greenish, brownish or even greyish color and a marble-like skin? Are there any red dots along the flanks that are encircled by blue halos? Do you notice red and orange colors on the belly? If all of these come together, you’re likely looking at the beautiful brook trout (Salvelinus Fontinalis). Top Photo: Brett Henderson.

Brook trout, or “brookies”, typically live in large and small lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, and spring ponds. Tenacious brookies can even be found in remote, small mountain streams. While they can inhabit a variety of waters, they require cold and clean water and they are very sensitive to poor oxygenation and acidity. Larger fish can also be very stressed by warm summer temperatures and low flow rates.Brook trout are a very popular sport fish for fly-fishing as many anglers are attracted by their beautiful colors and jewel-like appearance. One great place in the Gunnison Country to spot these beauties is Dutchman Creek. Dutchman Creek is a small creek in the Cochetopa region that is home to a healthy population of small brookies. It’s also a great place for hiking, biking and fishing.

What Dutchman Creek does not currently have is an existing instream flow protection. An instream flow is a legal water right to protect a quantified minimum amount of water in a stream, which can help protect minimum flows for fisheries against future water appropriations. By thinking ahead, we want to help protect our beautiful brookies by ensuring that they have enough water to live in well into the future. That’s why this January HCCA teamed up with Western Resource Advocates and local consultants to propose an instream flow recommendation that would protect Dutchman Creek’s natural environment and beautiful brookies. Left Photo: Julie Nania

 

Protecting instream flows requires on-the-ground assessment work to determine the amount of water necessary to protect the fishery during times of low flow. This requires a cross-section assessment approach referred to as R2Cross. In July 2017, HCCA coordinated an R2Cross training workshop with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Ten local participants were trained in this assessment method. Participants included representatives from High Country Conservation Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Coal Creek Watershed Coalition, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, The Lake Fork Conservancy District, Coldharbour Institute and local environmental consultants. Enhancing our capacity to complete this assessment work should better enable us to enhance our ability to protect instream flows in our basin. Right Photo: Julia Nania

 

Want to learn more about Dutchman Creek? Check out our proposal and sign on your support.