Char stocked in Dillon Reservoir |

Char stocked in Dillon Reservoir

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

FRISCO, Colo. ” After 25-year-old Matthew Scott Daniels died unexpectedly in 2005, his father, Ron, decided that the best way to honor his son’s memory would be with a living legacy.

“He was a fish-aholic. He lived and worked to go fishing,” Daniels said Tuesday after state biologists dropped about 20,000 Arctic char fingerlings into Dillon Reservoir near the Frisco Marina.

“It felt like the right place to do it, to put fish back in where he took them out,” Daniels said. “He was a true fisherman.”

After Matthew Daniels died, his family set up a memorial fund in his name, with the money earmarked for a fisheries project. The Colorado Division of Wildlife matched a $4,000 contribution from the fund to purchase Arctic char eggs from a private hatchery in Manitoba.

Char are native to Arctic and sub-Arctic lakes and coastal waters, and the state wildlife agency decided that they might do well in the cold and relatively sterile waters of Dillon Reservoir.

The eggs were hatched and raised at the Mt. Shavano hatchery during the past year. Aquatic biologist Jon Ewert said he hopes to continue the stocking program for at least three years to establish a variety of age classes in the reservoir.

The last time char were stocked in Dillon Reservoir was in 1998, and since the fish don’t reproduce, those fish are probably mostly gone by now.

Char don’t eat a lot and won’t compete to the detriment of trout species in the reservoir, Ewert explained.

The wildlife agency had to go far afield for the eggs, since there is no room at any of the state hatcheries for char brood stock ” a batch of adults to provide the eggs, Ewert said.

The char fishery in Dillon will be unique to the state, Ewert said. Based on observations from previous stocking, the cold-water fish should thrive, even with a short growing season.

As open-water fish, char don’t need much in the way of organic debris in the water. That matches the profile of Dillon Reservoir, where the ground was scraped bare before Denver Water started filling the impoundment back in the 1960s.

The char in Dillon won’t reproduce naturally, Ewert said, explaining that the eggs purchased from Canada come from a strain that has been genetically altered to be sterile.

The advantage to the strain is that they grow much faster than non-sterile fish, he said. Still, it will be a couple of years before they appear in angler’s creels in any significant size, Ewert said.

Char are found farther north than any other freshwater fish species — for example, living in Lake Hazen on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. They are also found in deep glacial lakes in Scotland, Scandinavia and Siberia.

Char look a bit like salmon but are closer to trout in their genetic makeup. In their natural lifecycle, some char migrate to the ocean in the summer to feed, returning to freshwater lakes and streams in the fall weighing 30 to 50 percent more than when they left. Other char populations spend their entire life in freshwater.

Environmental groups recognize the species as a sustainable choice for consumers based on their low consumption of resources and for the fact that they can be farmed in land-based, closed-cycle systems where they don’t significantly pollute surrounding waters or affect nearby wild populations through escape or disease transmission.


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