Stories from Team Trout
Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work. We’re excited to highlight their work with that of our distinguished partners: American Prairie Foundation, Henry’s Fork Foundation, Heyday, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite Archives and Museum, and the San Francisco Estuary Institute.
By Nessarose Schear
B.S. Earth Systems, Biosphere
Every morning the five other co-interns and I pack our packs, load up the ancient Suburban with field gear, and head out to remote creeks in the Henry’s Fork watershed. This area, especially the Henry’s Fork river, is considered some of the absolute best fly-fishing because of the huge wild rainbow and brook trout. Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF) is the only organization advocating for the conservation of the watershed. They do everything; research, restoration, education, and negotiation with local farmers and businesses to make sure the watershed stays healthy.
A big indication of the health of the system is the health of the trout. That’s where we interns come into the picture. We are helping HFF re-survey streams that were surveyed around 10 years ago, to check in on the trout populations. While we care about the rainbow and brook trout, we really want to study the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which are easily outcompeted by the nonnative species.
How does one catch all the fish in a 100-meter section of stream? The first challenge is finding the sites. With only a GPS point and a blurry 10 year-old photo to guide us we crash through the woods, fight our way through willows, and tumble down steep banks until we reach the stream. Now comes the fun part. After blocking off the upstream and downstream ends with nets, one person carries a 35 pound electro-fishing machine and carefully sweeps a probe through the water, stunning all fish. Don’t worry; the fish are fine after a few seconds! The rest of us follow the electro-fisher closely, nets at the ready, scooping up every fish we find. Our team’s motto is “No Fish Left Behind”. We think we are pretty e-fish-ient. (Yes, we spend a lot of time making fish puns.)
The trout are absolutely gorgeous and range from barely a centimeter to over 200 cm long! We have caught a decent amount of cutthroats, but sadly they have vanished from some of the streams they lived in before. Our research this summer will help the foundation evaluate how well their attempts at cutthroat restoration have gone and will help them direct further trout conservation initiatives.
I have learned how to identify all the fish we catch, both the different species of trout and all the nongame fish. It is impossible to hang out with fly-fishers without also learning about all the insects and their different lifecycles, so I am learning to recognize the different flies and their larval nymphs. I always try to give the trout some nymphs to munch on when they are in the bucket, but they too just focus on trying to leap out to enjoy the free food. While catching the fish is great, the best part of the day is letting the trout back into the river, watching them dart back into the shadowy banks.
If you want to hear more about the HFF interns, you can check us out at: http://hffinterns.blogspot.com/.
Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns »