Last week, we had the pleasure of joining Friends of the Teton River (FTR) as their Fisheries Team conducted research in the Teton River Watershed! FTR works with the public and government agencies to protect the fish, water, and habitat of the watershed.
The Teton River Watershed is one of the country's premier trout fisheries, and is one of the last strongholds for native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (pictured above). Unfortunately, fishing pressure, habitat degradation, and introduction of non-native fish like brook, rainbow, and brown trout threaten the survival of Yellowstone Cutties.
Every five years, FTR conducts a large stock assessment to keep track of fish populations, and ultimately monitor the health of the Yellowstone Cutty population. We were lucky to tag along as the crew hiked into to a remote sampling location, deep in the Teton Mountains.
We carried heavy packs of gear, including electro-fishing equipment, nets, buckets, data sheets, and of course bear spray in case we ran into one of the furry locals.
After gearing up in waders complete with Cutthroat Trout Wingo Wading Belts, we set up nets to partition off a 100 meter section of the creek. Then, we proceeded to shock the water in order to collect all the fish in that section.
The electro-fishing apparatus emits a temporary shock similar to an electric fence that stuns the fish for a few seconds so we can net and collect them in buckets.
Once all the trout were collected, we measured and documented each fish so scientists could look at trends in fish species, numbers, and size at that location over time. Any fluvial cutthroat (fish that live in the main river, but come up into the creeks to spawn) are tagged, and a fin clip is taken for genetic analysis. This way, FTR can track the movement and spawning success of Yellowstone Cutthroat!
The number of fish in just a small section of this creek was astounding. We collected over 40 trout in 100 meters. Most of the fish were invasive brook trout. Although they are pretty fish, and can be fun to catch, it is clear that invasive brook trout are competing with native Yellowstone Cutthroat for important habitat. This information will help FTR strategize future plans to help protect Yellowstone Cutthroat!
Friends of the Teton River (FTR) is a nationally recognized leader in science and community-based watershed protection and restoration in the Teton River watershed. To get involved and learn more about FTR’s work, click here.