Monday, November 03, 2008

After a long drought, local anglers may once again soon be hooking rainbow trout in the Blue River.

Hoping to rebuild wild populations of the popular game fish, the Colorado Division of Wildlife this week planted about 20,000 trout at three different spots along the Lower Blue north of Silverthorne.

“We’re hoping to see some decent survival,” said aquatic biologist Jon Ewert, after watching thousands of the five-inch trout splash from a hatchery truck into the chilly water below Dillon Dam.

The Blue River was once a stronghold for rainbow trout. Anglers who remember the good old days tell stories of three-pounders jumping acrobatically out of the water at the end of a taut line and flaunting their speckle sides against a brilliant Colorado sky. But whirling disease, a crippling ailment carried by a parasitic worm, wiped out rainbow trout across the state after the spores accidentally were introduced to the state in a shipment of fish from an Idaho hatchery in the late 1980s.

Ten years later, the fishery was decimated.Since then, Colorado Division of Wildlife biologists have been working to breed a strain of rainbows that’s resistant to the disease and maintains some of the desirable fighting fish qualities of the Colorado River rainbows.

The Hofer strain, named for a German breed of trout that evolved with genetic resistance, show promise. Lab tests and experimental releases in the Colorado River show that the fish can survive and even reproduce in the presence of the disease. We'll see - next summer.

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