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An update from our Conservation Partner CO Trout Unlimited

David Nickum

Executive Director - Colorado Trout Unlimited

Colorado is home to many iconic western rivers that provide the setting for those epic fishing stories, the clouds of caddis swarming underneath snowy peaks, and the lunker rainbow at the end of the line.  But beyond the banks of the mighty Colorado River and the famous tailwater fisheries are the wild headwaters – home to the last remaining populations of native cutthroat trout.

There were once five unique species of cutthroat trout in Colorado that occupied much of the cold-water drainages long before human settlement in the area.  The Greenback Cutthroat (Colorado’s state fish), the Rio Grande Cutthroat, the Colorado River Cutthroat, and the San Juan Cutthroat can all still be found across the Centennial State, but in very limited ranges.  In fact, the Greenback and San Juan linages were thought to be extinct but were both rediscovered within in the last six years.  These fish continue to face numerous challenges to their survival, but land management agencies and organizations like Trout Unlimited are fighting for their future.


“With the help of partners like Rep Your Water, Colorado Trout Unlimited has been able to commit the time and resources necessary to securing critical habitat and restoring native trout populations in Colorado,” explains David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “These projects are complex and require a broad array of partnerships and funding.” 

2019 was a successful year for native trout recovery in Colorado.  The recently rediscovered San Juan Cutthroat exists in only a handful of streams in the San Juan watershed, but those areas are now enjoying an increased level of protection.  The Colorado Cutthroat in Abrams Creek will be seeing the benefits of recent habitat improvements and stream connectivity – a cooperative project that engages TU, local irrigators and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. And the Greenback Cutthroat continues to increase in population size in four streams in the South Platte Drainage.

These recovery projects need everyone at the table.  In July 2019, over 120 volunteers helped hike Greenback Cutthroats into remote streams in the Clear Creek drainage.  Many of the participants don’t even fish – they were there just to help a species return to its native waters!  Rep Your Water and a handful of business partners supported this effort by providing gear, funding, and even some beer (at the end, of course).  Cutthroat restoration has become a community effort in Colorado – helping over 2000 native Greenback Cutthroats return to their historic range this season.

As anglers in Colorado, we are privileged to have access to world-class lakes and rivers.  But don’t forget that those feeder creeks in the mountains above us are filled with Colorado’s legacy fish – the native Cutthroat trout.  They need all of our help to continue to thrive, and we could not do it without the volunteers and business community – organizations like Rep Your Water that have stepped up to make a real difference for a rare fish.

To learn more about native trout in Colorado and get involved, visit:


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