Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake
Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Moving Day for a Rainbow Trout

Dateline: May 15, 2015

The refuge is bringing back Arctic Grayling. Montana is the only state with a few populations. Red Rock Lakes NWR has one of these populations and is dedicated to bringing this species back from near extinction. They cooperate with the Montana Fish and Wildlife and various researchers to do this.

To remove non-native competition, they are removing all rainbow trout and brook trout, leaving Red Rock Creek and Elk Creek with only grayling and suckermouths.  In the early spring, researchers set up upstream and downstream traps to catch and tag grayling and to record current data on recaught grayling. (See blog I wrote last year.)  Most of the trout end up in a food bank but 100 males got to go live in Widgeon Pond where they can provide sport for fisherman. The fish guys report to Dick, another volunteer,  that he has fish to transport, and he goes and moves them.

Dick wanted to learn more about the birds here before his birding friends come visit. So he and I did several chores together. I took him birding, and paused a few minutes to clean the bathrooms at the Upper Campground, we stopped to fix a lid on a bluebird box that had blown off, before we collected a rainbow trout from a pen on Red Rock Creek and took it to Widgeon Pond.

I thought you might like to come along on our trip to move the fish.


Dick removing the fish from the pen in Red Rock Creek

And moving him to...

A bin to which he has  just added creek water

Dick hauled him to the van and loaded him up and we were on our way to Widgeon Lake, a few miles further down the road. When we got there, we had to switch over to bird watching for a few minutes before continuing the move. 

An immature bald eagle was sitting on the gate - photo by Dick

And an early-arriving western grebe was swimming nearby

Dick hauls the bin down to lake's edge

Captures the fish...

Makes him pose for a portrait....

Then releases him

Then we raced back to watch the milking of the fish.  Stayed tuned.