The pandemic halted, canceled, or altered most activities in our daily lives, but the Colorado Parks and Wildlife hatchery system never missed a beat.
During the pandemic, interest in outdoor recreation and fishing increased dramatically. With most other activities shut down, getting outdoors became vital for people to maintain their mental and physical health. These trying times forced CPW to find ways to continue to meet the demands of anglers while also keeping their staff and the public safe.
“Many families that hadn’t fished much in recent years got out and fished during the pandemic, and having fully stocked waters made it more fun for everyone,” said angler Brandon Leuellen. “Enjoying fishing in the beautiful place we live was a great way to reduce stress and exercise while many other things were shut down.”
A dedication to anglers is part of a long tradition in our state. The first wildlife employee in Colorado was a fish commissioner appointed in 1876. Hatchery development was an important part of his job, and Colorado started rearing trout in 1881. The oldest Colorado hatchery still in operation today is in Durango and began producing fish in 1903. The hatchery producing the most trout is in Rifle Falls and was built in 1955.
Today, CPW operates 19 hatcheries that breed, hatch, rear and stock over 90 million fish annually. Colorado fish hatcheries support our angling pastime, contributing $2.4 billion annually to our state’s economy. Many of the fish are produced to enhance angling opportunities, while others serve a critical role in native species recovery efforts.
The John W. Mumma Native Species Restoration Facility helps ensure the conservation of various aquatic species. The hatchery currently rears 12 threatened, endangered, or federally listed fish species and boreal toads.
Conservationists, anglers and businesses rely on CPW hatcheries, and the good news is that we are gearing up for the future. In 2019, CPW began a multi-phase process to modernize our hatchery system. CPW recently completed the construction of a new building at the Las Animas Hatchery, one of two warm water hatcheries. The new hatchery building replaces an 80-year-old undersized and outdated facility.
Throughout the past and into the future, you can count on CPW’s hatcheries to perpetuate the aquatic resources of our great state. Your fishin’ is our mission!
Some hatcheries offer self-guided tours, while others have guided tours available. Be sure to visit a hatchery near you.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is celebrating its 125th Anniversary throughout 2022 to honor the legacy of our agency and the talented staff who make fulfilling CPW’s important mission possible. For more stories like this, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 125th Anniversary web page!
Written by Danielle Johnston with contributions from William (Riley Morris), CPW’s Hatchery Chief. Danielle is a habitat researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.