Raising Colorado’s Brown Trout – North Delaney Butte Lake

Despite Colorado’s abundant fish populations, most fish cannot successfully reproduce in the wild. And, of those species that are able to reproduce naturally, recruitment (the number of juvenile fish that actually survive to be added to a population) is often too low to support a fishable population. To ensure that there are enough fish to stock every year, CPW sets up spawn-collection sites at lakes and reservoirs across the state.

Each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) fishery biologists set up a spawn-take operation at North Delaney Butte Lake. During the operation, biologists will capture brown trout and collect more than a million eggs, which will be fertilized at the lake and then shipped to CPW fish hatcheries. Once hatched and raised, the brown trout are restocked in rivers and lakes throughout the state. And while brown trout are non-native, the hard fighting fish are some of the most popular among Colorado’s anglers.

Biologist milks female’s eggs into a pan.

Gold Medal Water

North Delaney, the primary source of brown trout eggs in Colorado, is also one of the state’s three gold medal lakes (Spinney Reservoir and Steamboat Lake are the others). Managed as a brown trout brood lake, North Delaney is one of only two egg sources that provide brown trout to the entire state. Antero Reservoir is the other source of eggs.

Gold Medal Waters are defined as any river or lake which is producing a standing stock of at least 60 pounds per acre, and at least 12 trout that are 14 inches or longer per acre on a sustained basis. For more information about gold medal waters, please see the Colorado Fishing brochure.

CPW protects the trout that are at prime spawning size and age by regulating fishing. Fortunately, the highly productive body of water offers a variety of forage including crayfish, minnows, damselflies, mayflies, and chironomids. So Delaney Butte’s trout grow quickly and provide anglers with great opportunities to catch trophy-sized fish, which grow up to 25 inches in length and can weigh more than 8 pounds.

Returning trophy size trout back into North Delaney.
Returning trophy size trout back into North Delaney.

Thanks to Hunters and Anglers

Did you know that hunters and anglers pay for fishery management in Colorado? Funding for fish hatcheries and conservation programs is provided, almost exclusively, by hunters and anglers through Habitat Stamp purchases and license sales. Additionally, proceeds from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) also help to support Colorado’s fishing resources. For more information about fishing in Colorado, please read Fish Facts: 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Colorado’s Fisheries.

Photos and Video by Jerry Neal. Neal is the senior video producer and an information specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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