ARKANSAS RIVER, LAKE FORK

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1 ARKANSAS RIVER, LAKE FORK 2012 The station just below County Road 11 (LF1) is routinely sampled as part of the protocol to monitor fish population changes relative to heavy metal cleanup in the Leadville mining districts. Cleanup within the Lake Fork basin is largely coordinated through the Lake Fork Watershed Working Group (LFWWG). Three additional stations were sampled in the Lake Fork below Turquoise Reservoir in 2006, 2010, 2011, and This narrative will compare and contrast current and historic aquatic biota differences within this reach with implications for future management. The Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) extensively sampled the fish population in the Lake Fork below Turquoise Reservoir in 1994 (see earlier Inventory Reports). Brown trout dominated the fish community just above Halfmoon Creek. Many large brown trout were collected at this station. Numerous young of the year (YOY) brown trout were collected. Brook trout were consistently more prevalent upstream of Willow Creek. Brook trout density was low just below Colorado Gulch consisting of small individuals. Brook trout numbers increased dramatically above Colorado Gulch to Dunn Diversion, however, fish remained small. Brown trout YOY were absent in this area. Brook trout density declined significantly above Dunn Diversion. Metal seeps from the Sugarloaf wetland and the Bartlett and Dinero Tunnels may have affected fish survival. Fish were absent at the next station upstream. Sugarloaf Gulch may be diluting the water enough to where a marginal population exists just above Dunn Diversion. Brook and brown trout reproduction was largely absent just below the Dinero Tunnel outfall. The fish community consisted of larger individuals that probably migrated in from downstream reaches. Contamination from Sugarloaf wetlands and Bartlett and Dinero Tunnels likely affect fish reproduction and survival downstream to at least Dunn Diversion. Trout density and biomass increased significantly in 2012 (Tables 1 and 2), particularly at upstream sites. Decreased metals loading associated with lower spring and summer flow likely accounts for improved trout survival. Trout composition, age structure, and species distribution has remained consistent since Brown trout continue to dominate the fish community below Colorado Gulch to the Arkansas River. Colorado Gulch enters the Lake Fork at County Road 5A. Brook trout were most prevalent above Willow Creek in Brown trout are successfully reproducing and recruiting to the next age class from below Colorado Gulch to the Arkansas River. Fry survival continually improves in a downstream fashion as well. This upstream species shift coupled with improved brown trout fry survival could have several plausible explanations. Heavy metal loading from Colorado Gulch or other nearby sources may have declined allowing successful brown trout reproduction and recruitment. Or, brown trout may be naturally out-competing brook trout in an upstream fashion. However, competition does not explain improved brown trout fry survival. Improvements are likely a combination of these two factors. Given adequate water quality brown trout typically out-compete other slamonids in streams of this type. Brook trout continue to dominate above Colorado Gulch where fry survival and recruitment to successive year classes has improved since 2006.

2 Table 1. Brown Trout Population Biometrics in the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River below Turquoise Reservoir, /Metric N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre Just Downstream of County Road 11: Miles Below State Highway 300: Miles Below County Road 5A: Feet Above Dunn Diversion: Table 2. Brook Trout Population Biometrics in the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River below Turquoise Reservoir, /Metric N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre N/acre lbs/acre Just Downstream of County Road 11: Miles Below State Highway 300: Miles Below County Road 5A: Feet Above Dunn Diversion:

3 The above fish population changes indicate an improving water quality condition. Brook trout, a metal tolerant species, dominate above Colorado Gulch. Fry survival and recruitment has improved in recent years while brown trout remain rare, a less metal tolerant species. Brown trout dominate, however, below Colorado Gulch to the Arkansas River. Reproduction, fry survival, and recruitment have improved recently suggesting improved water quality conditions below Colorado Gulch. Mining remediation efforts in the Lake Fork watershed mining districts appear to be working as evidenced by fish population response. An Instream Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM) study was initiated on the Lake Fork in 2010 to investigate the relationship between flow and fish habitat with the goal of working with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to best manage flows for fisheries. This study was led by Nicole Vieira (Aquatic Toxicologist) and Tracy Kittell (Design Engineer) of the CDOW. Field data was collected and Physical Habitat Simulation (PHABSIM) was performed in Flow operation recommendations are currently being discussed with BOR. Management Recommendations: 1) Stocking: Not recommended. Most of the land is privately controlled and the current population sustains itself naturally. 2) Regulations: Special fishing regulations are not biologically justified. 3) Habitat Improvement: Continue involvement in water quality cleanup efforts in the Lake Fork basin below Turquoise Reservoir with the LFWWG. Continue to negotiate water releases from Turquoise Reservoir with BOR to enhance aquatic habitat and the fish population in the Lake Fork. Participate with private landowners to improve instream and riparian habitat (primarily between State Highway 300 and County Road 5A). This is largely dependent on securing public access or may occur via the Natural Resource Damages (NRD) restoration process. 4) Access/Facilities: Explore the possibility of securing public access on private sections of the Lake Fork. 5) Information/Education: Dependent on public access.

4 Appendix A Table 1. Arkansas River Brown Trout Density (no/acre) Near Salida, Fall Note: Spring samples before 1999, Fall since 1999 Table 2. Arkansas River Brown Trout Biomass (lb/acre) Near Salida, Fall

5 Note: Spring samples before 1999, Fall since 1999 Table 3. Arkansas River Brown Trout (>= 14"/acre) Near Salida, Fall

6 Note: Spring samples before 1999, Fall since 1999 Table 4. Arkansas River Rainbow Trout Density (no/acre) Near Salida, Fall

7 Note: Spring samples before 1999, Fall since 1999 Table 5. Arkansas River Rainbow Trout Biomass (lb/acre) Near Salida, Fall Note: Spring samples before 1999, Fall since 1999 Table 6. Arkansas River Rainbow Trout (>= 14"/acre) Near Salida, Fall

8 Note: Spring samples before 1999, Fall since 1999 Table 7. Arkansas River Brown Trout Density (no/acre) Near Leadville, Fall AR1 AR3a AR4 Reddy AR5 AR5b AR6a M-H AR6 LF1 EF * AR1 and AR3a sampled in 1989 instead of 1991

9 Table 8. Arkansas River Brown Trout Biomass (lb/acre) Near Leadville, Fall AR1 AR3a AR4 Reddy AR5 AR5b AR6a M-H AR6 LF1 EF *AR1 and AR3a sampled in 1989 instead of 1991 Table 9. Arkansas River Brown Trout (>= 14"/acre) Near Leadville, Fall AR1 AR3a AR4 Reddy AR5 AR5b AR6a M-H AR6 LF1 EF *AR1 and AR3a sampled in 1989 instead of 1991

10 Table 10. Arkansas River near Leadville sampling sites. Number Location AR1 AR3a AR4 Reddy AR5 AR5b AR6a 1/2 mile upstream of CR 55 M-H 1/4 mile upstream of CR 55 AR6 1/2 mile downstream of CR 55 Just downstream of Tennessee Creek 1/4 mile below California Gulch Just upstream of CR 44 on Smith Ranch 1/4 mile below Iowa Gulch 1/2 mile downstream of Hwy 24 crossing at Empire Gulch 1/4 mile below Stone Bridge LF1 Just downstream of CR 11/FR 160 EF1 Just upstream of Hwy 91 crossing

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