By Brian Nelson
I passionately enjoy catching genuine, pure-bred cutthroat trout. Regarding the Greenback, there are places where this is possible, albeit catch & release–which suits me just fine.
Oh, wait—the Denver Post said a study of cutthroat genetics revealed that “pure greenbacks” only exist within a four mile section of Bear Creek, near Colorado Springs. Which means…all other greenback populations are…lowly hybrids! Additionally, greenback cutts are native to the South Platte, but Bear Creek is a tributary of the Arkansas. This fact alone calls into question whether or not they really are “pure greenbacks.” The Center for Biological Diversity circulated a press release that says “some scientists believe [this population] to be a long-lost subspecies known as yellowfin cutthroat.” Well, after more than two decades of recovery work and millions of dollars expended to save what turned out to be hybrids, we apparently know only one thing for certain—Greenbacks: the name fits!
So now, the Forest Service, Division of Wildlife, the City of Colorado Springs, Trout Unlimited, and a host of other interested parties are trying to figure out what to do next. Motorcycles, mountain bikers, and trailriders can still use the trails, but fishing Bear Creek apparently is illegal.
Apparently, previous rescue efforts used cutthroat populations that were thought to be greenbacks, but were actually western slope hybrids. My question is what happens now with these fish…we’ve already spent so much time, effort, and money on them. Bill Edrington of Royal Gorge Anglers in Canon City, Colorado, says that the forest service now refers to these hybrid trout as “The Green Fish.” This may be a wordplay referring not only to their color, but to cutthroat that were reared in the 1990’s in a tailwater creek of Fort Carson’s Townsend Reservoir. When I served in the military, my unit camped near this reservoir during a training exercise. I remember a senior officer told me that greenbacks had been stocked in the creek, but then a drought wiped out the population—all that greenback recovery time & money, erased.
As I recall, pretty much everyone was excited about the earlier greenback recovery efforts. The general public seemed to think of this as a means to “give back” to the environment, to the cadence of the “go green” motto. But Adrian Stanley relays in the Colorado Springs Independent that U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Leith Edgar “…says the findings go to show that the moment we think we have nature figured out, science proves otherwise.” It’s true; we must be good stewards of our fish & game, but what do we do now with “The Green Fish” hybrids? After all, they may be small fish that rarely exceed 12 inches, but at least they’re pretty!