Colorado’s official state fish makes second comeback after previously thought extinct

A complex state effort announces first success restoring the breeding population of greenback cutthroat trout in a historic spot

Kevin Simpson and Michael Booth The Colorado Sun
A stream flows into Herman Gulch, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Clear Creek County. Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed that the greenback cutthroat trout reintroduction efforts had successfully reproduced fish on their own in Herman Gulch

HERMAN GULCH — For decades, experts feared Colorado’s greenback cutthroat trout to be extinct, a casualty of mining pollution, anglers and more competitive species. So, when biologists made the improbable discovery of a naturally reproducing population in a short stretch of Bear Creek west of Colorado Springs 10 years ago, they clung to the hope that the near-miracle could be replicated.

Last Friday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed that the Bear Creek greenbacks now have company. Re-introduction efforts in Herman Gulch, the popular hiking destination just off Interstate 70 near the Loveland ski area, have yielded fish that are reproducing on their own — and sparking renewed optimism that other greenback stocking projects will soon follow suit.

State natural resources officials said the news affirmed their “bedrock mission” to support wildlife across the state and reflected years of collaborative effort among agencies. The stocking in Herman Gulch started in 2016 and now includes its first population of greenback cutthroats — the official state fish — old enough to reproduce.

“It’s kind of a waiting game for those fish to mature and reproduce,” said Josh Nehring, assistant aquatic section manager for CPW. “So ,we’re just super excited and hoping to get a lot more populations out on the landscape.

“In a typical system, when we’re trying to start a population, we will often stock three-year classes — so stock fry (young fish) for three years in a row,” he added. “And, typically in three years, they become sexually mature. And, so hopefully, after three years of stocking or four, we should have adults in the population to where they can start reproducing on their own.”


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