“The fish came first,” said Jeff Trandahl in the prologue to “America’s Bountiful Waters,” a book released this year commemorating 150 years of fisheries conservation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Trandahl, CEO and Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Washington, DC, takes readers back to February 8, 1871, when the United States Fish and Fisheries Commission was formed. It was the country’s first federal conservation agency.
Today, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) consists of 83 national hatcheries and centers, 568 wildlife refuges, and 38 wetland management districts. As most Leadvillians know, the second oldest national hatchery is located just outside of Leadville.
In 1871, fish conservation was probably not a big deal in Leadville, which was seven years old before it became a town. But elsewhere, in the most populated areas of the country, overfishing and pollution have led to a decline in the fish population.
“America’s Bountiful Waters,” edited by Craig Springer, fish biologist and USFWS writer, highlights the men and women who have played an important role in conserving fish over the years, and also includes the stories various species of fish found all over this country, some present today and others, alas, extinct.
The first fish hatchery, Baird Station, was established by Stan Livingston at the junction of the McCloud and Pit rivers in northern California. He does not exist anymore.
The Leadville National Fish Hatchery was established in 1895. It is currently one of three fishing facilities in the state of Colorado, although nine others have been closed over the years.
Many USFWS employees contributed articles to the book, often including first-hand experiences.
“I soak up the incredible landscape. Balancing on a ladder six feet deep in the water – as is the custom here – a vast body of water stretches out in front of me: Pyramid Lake. . . An eight-weight fly rod in hand, I present an irresistible imitation of a minnow almost as vibrant as the sunrise. The object of my desire: the coveted Lahontan cutthroat – the largest growing trout native to North America.
This is how Carlos Martinez begins his article on the Lahontan cutthroat, a fish that was believed to be extinct until a small population of trout was discovered in a small mountainside lake in the Utah.
Martinez says Lahontan’s cut-throat comeback story is his favorite fishy comeback story.
His fishing expedition to Pyramid Lake allowed him to catch a Lahontan cut-throat, but not the 20-pound cannon he envisioned.
Martinez, who has written several articles in America’s Bountiful Waters, is currently director of the DC Booth National Fish Hatchery and the National Fish and Aquatic Conservation Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota. He joined the USFWS in 1999, first serving as an assistant manager at the Leadville National Hatchery until 2008.
The Leadvillians also currently know him as director of several local races, including the Hatchery 5K, and as president of the Leadville / Lake County Sports Hall of Fame.
Another fish with an interesting history is the cutthroat trout, now the state fish of Colorado. A very popular fish, it has become impoverished through overexploitation. One of the reasons for the Leadville Fish Cultural Station (the original name of the Leadville Hatchery) was to produce fish to compensate for depleted species. Efforts were made to breed native cutthroat trout, but other species imported from all over the United States and mixed with the greenback led to the extinction of greenback cutthroat trout in 1937.
The greenback trout was said to be making a comeback in 1969 when cutthroat trout were found in Como Creek and believed to be the original greenback cutthroat trout.
However, once the genetics of the Como Creek trout were compared to that of the original trout, which had been kept in museums across the country, it was determined that it was not the same fish.
Today, the only original population of green trout is found at Bear Creek, where they were stocked by a farmer in 1882.
An article in “Bountiful Waters” by Chris Kennedy notes that “This fish is being reared at the National Hatchery in Leadville, where biologists are keeping the genetics of the broodstock of what is arguably one of the cutthroat trout. the rarest. “
Kennedy, a fish biologist in the USFWS Colorado Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, has worked with cutthroat trout for more than 20 years.
Besides conserving and increasing fish production, promoting fish consumption was also a role that the United States Bureau of Fisheries had previously taken on, employing Evelene Spencer, a famous chef, who worked for the office from 1915 to 1922.
She drew the crowds with her live demonstrations in department stores and became quite well known. Some of the advertisements promoting the fish featured her as a spokesperson.
She is perhaps best known for “Fish Cookery,” a book co-authored by John N. Cobb, director of the College of Fisheries at the University of Seattle.
The book is more than recipes, including how to fillet fish, how to determine if market fish is fresh, and how to mathematically determine fish cooking times based on size and thickness. It was said to be a bestseller.
The USFWS has also had a National Wildlife Artist over the years. Bob Hines joined the USFWS in 1948, although he had previously provided a drawing of red ducks for the 1946 Federal Duck Stamp.
Noteworthy is his book “Sport Fishing USA”, published in 1971 to mark the centennial of fisheries conservation. His color plates of various species of fish have become collector’s prints over the years. Hines retired from the USFWS in 1981.
When Bob Hines joined the USFWS, one of its first bosses was Rachel Carson. His book “Silent Spring”, published in 1962, is said to be the book that started the modern environmental movement. This book was published ten years after she left USFWS after a 16-year career. Hines worked for her and illustrated several of her books as well.
Although each hatchery has its own story, the book does not visit all of them. Photos and information from the Leadville Hatchery appear in the Greenback Cutthroat Trout section, focusing mainly on the early years.
The 278-page hardback book, which measures approximately 8 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches, is available through the usual online sources. The cost is $ 49.95.