The Gunnison Angling Society (GAS) has a long and rich tradition of working to protect, conserve, and restore trout habitat in the Gunnison Basin. To ensure a future full of angling opportunities we also engage in youth education. Take a look at just some of the ways we fulfill our mission to protect, conserve, and restore trout habitat and the watersheds in the Upper Gunnison Basin.
In partnership with Gunnison County and other conservation groups, we are working to develop a new river access area on the Gunnison River. We believe that having access to riverways is essential for others to develop a sound conservation ethic. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help shape the next century of use on the Gunnison River.
In cooperation with multiple partners including the City of Gunnison, Gunnison County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and several other organizations and private landowners we have embarked on an ambitious multi-year project to restore fish habitat on a two-mile stretch of the Gunnison River. This project will benefit trout through increased habitat and more stable channel structure. GAS is proud to have facilitated a $50,000 dollar donation to this incredible project. In addition, the chapter has pledged 300 hours of volunteer time to help revegetate riparian areas in the construction reach.
For the past 5 years, GAS has been working to re-establish critical riparian habitat on Tomichi Creek and address irrigation diversion structures that have a negative impact on trout. Tomichi Creek is emblematic of many small trout streams in the west. In that, it suffers from a hundred and fifty years of people messing around with it. Tomichi Creek drains an area of roughly 700,000 acres and is a major agricultural region in the Gunnison Basin. Trout habitat has suffered from historic mining in the headwaters and cattle production along its length. We at GAS recognize the importance of agriculture and see the need to ensure that it remains viable for centuries to come. We strive to work with Ag producers to find win-win solutions that can benefit both trout and ranching. These include working to replace old irrigation diversion structures that may present impacts to trout such as barriers to connectivity and or adverse effects on channel structure. These projects benefit Ag producers through better water management and infrastructure improvements. Tomichi Creek is highly dependent on riparian vegetation for channel structure. Much of the riparian corridor along the creek has been removed through historic land management practices. We just simply did not recognize the importance of riparian vegetation a hundred years ago. We have been planting cottonwoods and willows on a small section of the Tomichi Creek State Wildlife area and hope to continue to expand the effort in the future.
Adopt-A-Trout is a conservation and education project that came out of our desire to address trout habitat conditions on Tomichi Creek. It started in the spring of 2015 in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife we tagged 15 trout with radio tags and tracked their movement over the next two years. This study helped to shed light on trout movement and habitat conditions in Tomichi Creek. Along with the research, we engaged local students, community members, and groups from across the country in an education program that covered a variety of topics such as trout biology, macroinvertebrates, riparian vegetation, and water management. The batteries in the radio tags died in the fall of 2017 effectively ending our research project. But the program was so much of a success that in the spring of 2018 in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife we tagged 2000 trout in Tomichi and Cochetopa Creeks ( a tributary to Tomichi Creek) with Pit tags. These passive tags will allow us to record trout movement for the life of the fish. Again we have been back engaged with local students from high school students all the way down to 4-year-olds. We have raised more than $10,000 dollars for the program through grants and fundraising events like our annual film tour.
See the recent article on Adopt-A-Trout in High Country Anglers