I just had to go to fish school. Having prepared myself to attend on the wrong day, I couldn’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t show up on the right day. Plus, the more I thought about it during the week, the more curious I became. Exactly what kinds of fish live around here, anyway? And maybe my presence would even be appreciated, in case there weren’t many people who could or would clear their Friday lunch hour to learn about the fish of Fort Collins. I could, and so I would.
I wasn’t the only one. To my surprise, there must have been forty people at the presentation by Sean Seal, research associate at CSU’s Larval Fish Lab. Some of them were with the city’s Natural Areas, there for a little Continuing Ed. Others were definite angler-types. And there were probably a few others like me—curious, and with an hour to kill.
So, let’s get right down to it. Of the 29 native species of fish in our area, most were discovered between 1889 and 1903. Six are now extinct. Another six are endangered or threatened. The majority of our native species are river dwelling, or lotic, fish. Most of the pond/lake (or lentic) fish were introduced for sport purposes, as the native fish tend not to be large or catchable.
But how about the rainbow trout, you ask? The iconic fish found on T-shirts, letter openers, and Christmas ornaments, the fish that symbolizes the lifestyle of the American West? Well, hold on to your waders, folks, because rainbow and brown trout are not native to Colorado. They were brought here in the 1800s from England and Germany. Later, when English trout succumbed to whirling disease, we sent some healthy ones back in a sort of international fish school exchange program. (I don't know that guy. Or that fish.)
The management of fish populations is much like the management of other wildlife. Concerns include pollution, decreasing habitat, and highly adaptive invasive species such as the Brook Stickleback. But there is also the additional problem of fish owners who will sneak their various unwanted aquarium fish into a nearby stream or lake. This explains how goldfish have been found at Riverbend Ponds and piranhas in Sheldon Lake. This, by the way, is not the City Park Piranha, but I still don't like his attitude.
Sean had many slides of various species with excellent names such as Gizzard Shad, Black Bullhead, Creek Chub, and Pumpkinseed. And I thought the Green Sunfish, Red Shiner (that's them, below), and White Sucker gave the program a bit of holiday flair. I did fail the fish quiz, though, proving that I still have much to learn.
If you were absent from fish school, you’re in luck because the City has made Sean’s presentation available here.