What a difference a year makes . . .
****** Lakes were not dry this August — as they generally are this time of year. . . In fact they were full to the gunnels – painting a remarkable picture of saturation and hydration, seemingly with no visible sign of draught for the foreseeable future.
Yet just over the ‘hill,’ it is evident that a more sober reality had truly set in . . .
Last July we commented that roads alongside ***** Creek were closed due to excessive rainfall (and risk of rutting damage) . . . And we commented that the creek was the highest we’d seen it in July, and that the flow was high throughout the system.
This August, some roads along ***** Creek are closed due to high fire danger, and the water flow is the lowest that we’ve ever seen in the system. Reality is that the water is alarmingly warm, and – no doubt – the oxygen levels are deplorably low.
Range fires dominated the region on our last visit — and sunrise was badly obscured by smoke and haze, making for an eerie ominous sense of gloom – if not doom.
Notable walking was involved on this trip — yet the trek did yield a few phenotypes that may reflect at least some alvordensis composition and potential heritage.
Some of the trout (like the one directly above) seemed to be extremely under-fed – and were uncomfortably skinny for mid-August trout. Post-spawning may account in part; yet some of the trout are urgently skinny — seriously lacking in volume and weight to endure future hardships to come (especially hardships in the short term).
In fact, the low water—with warm temperatures—and no doubt LOW oxygen levels are critical factors for these trout and their survival. I would implore all who fish for these trout at this time to keep especially respectable phenotypes IN water — and to restore them to the stream as quickly and gently as possible.
For us — we will not be returning to the stream until the weather cools and the water conditions equally improve. . . . A range fire in the region could be catastrophic for many — or most — or all — of the trout in this fragile system.
Though – we did keep a legal limit – of trout that were clearly not of Alvord heritage . . .
It may seem that the powers that be have abandoned the phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout that still exert their presence in ***** Creek — yet persistent ripples of hope still permeate this lonely basin and occasionally even the pages of academia; via the effort of biologists who may yet be in a position to truly do some good for these lonely survivors of generations gone by:
A publication entitled Fish and Aquatic Habitat Surveys at *******-**** ******** National Wildlife Refuge Complex was released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service this June… The authors: Sam Lohr, J. Michael Hudson, Marci Koski, and Timothy A. Whitesel freely note the thoughts of Dr. Behnke relative to alvordensis having been moved to this stream during the pre-hybridization historical period.
And they have good reason for that . . . Among the photos published in the report, is this photo of a striking Alvord phenotype taken in the upper region of their study areas:
The report indicates that USFWS recommends genetic testing of the trout in ***** Creek; . . . and who knows . . . perhaps this testing can be accomplished in conjunction with the testing of the pre-hybridization alvordensis specimens in the UMMZ Hubbs’ collection!
During the course of the day we did catch other trout with general alvordensis indications:
While the sky became mottled with smoke-clouds from numerous nearby range fires . . .
And the ride out, as we began to head home, still bled of the eerie soberness of the intense heat, depleted oxygen . . . and the ominous tone of probable difficult times for alvordensis.
As we depart for a season, we only hope that the phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout still left in ***** Creek will survive the extreme and hostile conditions of the seventh summer.