Regional Offices > Cody Region > Cody Region News > Game and Fish follows up with field surveys on recommendations made through the Cody Cutthroat Colla

Game and Fish follows up with field surveys on recommendations made through the Cody Cutthroat Collaborative

October 22, 2018
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Cody - Last winter, fisheries managers with Game and Fish convened a collaborative working group to discuss public interests and concerns pertaining to Yellowstone cutthroat trout conservation and restoration in the Cody Region.  Two to three sets of meetings were held in each of three communities; Cody, Lovell and Worland.  At the final round of meetings participants submitted recommendations to Game and Fish for specific locations of potential future cutthroat trout restoration projects in the Bighorn Basin (Click here to view recommendations).  The following write-up provides an update on the field surveys that Game and Fish conducted in follow-up to several of the public recommendations. 

Willett Creek

Surveys were conducted along the length of Willett Creek from the confluence with Shell Creek upstream to the first meadow section.  Several fish barriers were found in a steep cascade section of the stream about a 1/2 mile upstream from the confluence with Shell Creek.  The habitat that exists upstream of the fish barrier includes some high quality meadow sections intermixed with some steeper boulder sections.  Willett Lake is at the head of the drainage and is fairly small and shallow.  Moraine Creek flows into Willett above the fish barrier and also has some high quality habitat.  A temperature logger was deployed in early July and was retrieved at the end of September.  The temperature profile of the stream indicated temperatures that are ideal to support cutthroat trout.  In short, these streams and the lake have all the ingredients to make for a cost-effective and successful cutthroat trout restoration project.

One of several fish passage barriers         Photo showing quality habitat that is present in the two meadow  identified on the lower ½                            sections of Willett Creek.
mile of Willett Creek.                      


   Moraine Creek                           Meadow section on Moraine Creek

Leigh Creek

Fisheries biologists hiked upstream on Leigh Creek starting at the confluence with Tensleep Creek.  The first mile of Leigh Creek is riddled with waterfalls.  Navigating this mile of stream was more of a canyoneering event than it was a hike.  Due to the time intensive hike through the canyon there was not adequate time to look at the stream above this canyon section.  The upper section of stream will be investigated next summer in conjunction with other surveys in the area.

     Representative photos of the canyon section of Leigh Creek.

East Tensleep Creek

With help from the Bighorn National Forest, an extensive survey of the East Tensleep Creek drainage above Meadowlark Lake was done in August.  The lakes and streams in the upper end of this drainage were last surveyed in the 1990's which, in part, prompted the more thorough survey this past summer.   
There are currently two populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout in this drainage; one at the upper end of East Tensleep Creek near Lake McClain, the other in Lake Creek upstream from East Tensleep Lake.  We found a very low density of cutthroat trout and no other species of trout in Lake Creek upstream from East Tensleep Lake.  In Lake Creek just below East Tensleep Lake we found brook trout and rainbow/cutthroat hybrids.  In the upper end of East Tensleep Creek we found pure cutthroat trout and brook trout.  The brook trout outnumbered the cutthroat 100:1.  In East Tensleep Lake we found cutthroat, rainbow, rainbow/cutthroat hybrids and brook trout.  

The logistics of removing non-native trout from this drainage in order to secure and expand the existing populations of cutthroat are complicated.  First, there is no barrier present upstream from Meadowlark Lake and blasting a barrier is not feasible given the lack of suitable bedrock outcroppings.  The second challenge is the complexity surrounding East Tensleep Lake and the potential for the lake during high water years to drain into both East Tensleep Creek and Lake Creek.  
Given the quality habitat, and the presence of multiple lakes and tributary streams, this system is a good candidate for securing and expanding the existing cutthroat populations.  However, the need to build a barrier and the concern we have on the potential for East Tensleep Lake to drain into Lake Creek, which was not part of the recommended project, we will prioritize other streams for restoration that are more cost effective and have a higher probability of success.  This system will remain a viable candidate for restoration but will be moved lower down in priority.

Fishless lake (Game and Fish calls it Blister Lake) at the upper end of the Lake Creek drainage.

Yellowstone cutthroat trout sampled in upper Lake Creek downstream from the fishless lakes.

Map showing locations of surveys and species sampled in the East Tensleep Creek and Lake Creek drainages.

Ishawooa Creek

Two trips were scheduled to survey above the falls in Ishawooa Creek.  The first was thwarted by the lingering snowpack and the second by our horse packer getting sick the day before our trip.  As such, reconnaissance surveys above the falls will be scheduled for next summer to confirm the presence or absence of brook trout.

Crandall Creek

A survey of lower Crandall Creek, between the highway bridge and the confluence with the Clark's Fork River was conducted on October 10 with assistance from the Shoshone National Forest.  A bedrock outcropping a few hundred yards downstream from the highway bridge has potential to be used to create a fish passage barrier. Mechanical sculpting, some blasting, and/or concrete can be used at this location to ensure upstream passage of fish is prevented.  The logistics of removing rainbows and rainbow/cutthroat hybrids from the drainage upstream of this potential barrier would be challenging due to the scale and remoteness of the drainage.  An additional layer of complexity is that there are several private landowners that would have to grant Game and Fish access to the stream through their property in order for a treatment to occur.  A survey of the upper drainage will be conducted next summer to update information on species composition and the genetic status of the cutthroat trout population.  The last survey of the drainage occurred in 2011.

   â€‹Bedrock outcropping that could be used         Photo of the rock canyon of lower Crandall Ck.
   to create a fish passage barrier on lower
   Crandall Creek.                     

- WGFD -

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