From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):
Each year, the Parks and Wildlife department conducts an annual survey of fish populations in different stretches of the Animas River. Recently, crews focused on the portion of the river from the bridge behind Durango High School to High Bridge, near the La Plata County Humane Society.
For more than a decade, fish populations in the Animas have been on a steady decline, attributed to a number of factors, including less water in the river, urban runoff, higher water temperatures and elevated levels of heavy metals.
As a result, Parks and Wildlife stocks about 20,000 brown and 20,000 rainbow fingerlings a year, which usually have a survival rate of 3 to 5 percent, about the state average.
Although White said this year’s count didn’t indicate a turning point for fish in the Animas, he did say certain population trends are encouraging.
“The good news is we captured twice as many fish of quality size – 14 inches or better – compared to last year, so that’s really good,” he said.
White said another positive sign was crews caught a lot of 2-year-old brown trout, which means more juvenile fish stocked last year survived winter.
“We haven’t seen that recruitment for a while,” White said. “We also saw a higher number of larger rainbow trout. We’ve seen lots of small fish over the years that don’t seem to make it through the winter, but this year we’re seeing a lot more relative to the past several years.”
White said it would take a couple weeks to generate a population estimate, but he expects that number to reach or be very close to the Gold Metal Standard the river currently holds on the 4-mile stretch between the confluence with Lightner Creek and the bridge near Home Depot that contains 60 pounds of trout per acre and at least 12 14-inch or larger trout per acre.