In addition to the Colorado River Fishery Project, the Grand Junction Fisheries Office includes the Ouray National Fish Hatchery – Grand Valley Unit. The hatchery consists of several facilities: 1) Horsethief Broodstock Ponds, 2) The Grand Valley Propagation Facility, 3) The Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility, and 4) various grow-out ponds.
Offspring from wild razorback suckers are held in ponds and spawned every spring. Matings between pairs of fish are planned so as to maximize the genetic diversity of their offspring. Eggs are hatched and then reared for about a year in a water-reuse hatchery. Progeny from each mating are reared separately in indoor tanks. Fish are placed in grow-out ponds in the spring when they are large enough to be marked with a small electronic tag. These tags can later be used to identify individuals, their respective parentage, and when and where they were stocked. The ponds allow time for the fish to adjust to a natural environment and grow larger before being released in the wild. After 4-6 months, they are stocked into the Colorado, Gunnison and San Juan rivers. Field crews monitor the survival and spawning of the stocked fish.
Doug Osmundson holds the last wild razorback sucker captured from the upper Colorado River at Walter Walker State Wildlife Area, April 27, 1993. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s so few wild razorback sucker remained that all captured were brought into captivity to be used as broodstock for hatchery-based recovery efforts. The limited gene pool necessitated that matings included individuals captured from the Colorado, Green and San Juan rivers. Photo by J. Thompson.
Travis Francis plans the matings of pairs of razorback sucker broodstock to maximize the genetic diversity of offspring that will be stocked in the river. Photo by J. Hock.
Embryos of razorback sucker about to hatch at the Grand Valley Propagation Facility. Photo by R. Dujay.
Young razorback sucker reared at the Grand Valley Propagation Facility are released in grow-out ponds near Grand Junction. USFWS file photo.
In the late 1980s and 1990s so few wild razorback sucker remained in the upper Colorado River that all captured were brought into captivity to be used as broodstock for hatchery-based recovery efforts.
Horsethief Ponds – A series of ponds constructed at the Horsethief State Wildlife Area are used for holding the razorback sucker broodstock. These fish are brought indoors in the spring where they are held until ready to be spawned. The males that are matched with females for mating are changed each year according to a schedule designed to maximize the genetic diversity of the offspring.
Chuck McAda (left) and Thad Bingham strip eggs from a ripe female razorback sucker at the Horsethief spawning facility. Eggs are incubated after being fertilized with milt from a selected male. Photo by J. Hock.
Razorback sucker held as broodstock are netted from the Horsethief ponds prior to spring spawning. Photo by C. McAda.
Horsethief State Wildlife Area endangered fish ponds near Fruita, Colorado. Photo by M. Baker.
The Grand Valley Propagation Facility - A water-reuse hatchery was built in 1996 specifically to rear razorback sucker. The hatchery contains some 94 circular, fibreglass tanks. Water used in the tanks is filtered and reused over and over. Annually, 21,000 fish are reared at the hatchery to a length of 200 mm before being transferred to grow-out ponds; an additional 7,000 are reared to a length of 300 mm and are then stocked directly in the river.
Young razorback sucker being reared at the Grand Valley Propagation Facility. Photo by T. Bingham
One of several filters that clean tank water for reuse at the Grand Valley Propagation Facility. Photo by B. Scheer.
Rearing tanks at the Grand Valley Propagation Facility. Photo by B. Scheer.
Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility -- Located just outside of Fruita, CO this facility consists of 22 ponds ranging in size from 0.1 to 0.5 acres (6.2 total surface acres). Each is 5-6 feet deep and lined with a geomembrane fabric to reduce seepage. A small onsite building is used for holding, spawning, and rearing operations. Construction was completed in 2012 and was funded by the two endangered fish recovery programs to hold and rear endangered razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, and potentially bonytail and humpback chub.
Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility, located in Snook’s Bottom near Fruita, Colorado. Water for the facility comes from the nearby Colorado River through an infiltration gallery. Photo by D. Ryden.
Grow-out Ponds – A variety of ponds are used to rear razorback sucker prior to their release in the wild. Some of these ponds are situated on land owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, others are leased from local landowners. Fish are moved to the ponds in the spring from the hatchery and are later captured in the fall, tagged, and released in the river.
Razorback sucker are captured in fyke nets from grow-out ponds when about one and a half years old. Photo by B. Osmundson.
CRFP personnel move pond-reared razorback sucker to a stocking truck. The fish are then marked with a miniature electronic tag before being stocked in the river. Photo by B. Osmundson.
Razorback sucker being transferred from nets to a boat-mounted holding tank. Photo by B. Osmundson.