Taos, NM — Department of Game and Fish personnel plan to stock the Rio Grande Gorge with almost 10,000 Rio Grande cutthroat trout March 24. Volunteers are needed to help carry the native fish down into the gorge by packing them in on foot.
Anglers, schoolchildren and cutthroat trout enthusiast from a variety of organizations have volunteered, and everyone is welcome.
The river is 800 feet down at the bottom of the gorge and is only accessible by foot. Trails to the bottom vary in length from less than a mile to a mile and a half.
Volunteers will carry bags filled with 3 to 4 gallons of water containing more than 100 live fingerlings. The bags will be tied off, loaded into backpacks and hiked down to the Rio Grande. Before the fish are released, they will be acclimated to the river’s temperature.
“Anglers make this program possible, not only by volunteering but by funding it through license fees and through an excise tax on fishing equipment, rods and boat fuel through the Sport Fish Restoration Act,” said Jason Blakney, coldwater fisheries biologist for the department. “Sportsmen have invested in this program and make it possible to have a wild population of Rio Grande cutthroat trout in a large river system.”
Once native to the Rio Grande Gorge, the department began restocking the state fish in the river in 2008. Today people can fish for cutthroat that have grown to adulthood in the gorge and are now as large as 10 to 12 inches.
Department staff raised the trout fingerlings at Seven Springs Hatchery. To keep the cutthroat’s genetic strain pure, they are the only species of fish raised there.
Volunteers transporting the fish will meet at 10:30 a.m., March 24, at the La Junta Trailhead at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact Jason Blakney at (575) 445-2311 or Jason.Blakney@state.nm.us .
If you cannot attend the cutthroat stocking, there are other ways you can support their recovery. The department is encouraging anglers to report how many cutthroats they catch, as well as when, where, and the size of the fish. Photographs of the fish are especially useful. These reports help biologists gauge the success of the reintroduction and fish survival rates.
To send angler reports and photographs of Rio Grande cutthroat trout to the department please contact Fisheries Management division in Santa Fe at (505) 476-8055 or Jason.Blakney@state.nm.us .
For more information about Rio Grande cutthroat trout restoration and angling, please visit www.wildlife.state.nm.us .