Colorado River Fishery Project - Vernal

1380 South 2350 West | Vernal, UT 84078-2042
Phone: (435) 789-4078

About The CRFP

Endangered Fish | Nonnative Fish Management | Population Monitoring | Floodplain Restoration | Instream Flow | Partnerships | Staff | Open / Close All

About Us

Photo of river rafters at the Vernal Colorado River Fishery Project. Credit: USFWS.

Photo of river rafters at the Vernal Colorado River Fishery Project. Credit: USFWS.

The Colorado River Fish Project, located in Vernal, UT (Vernal CRFP), plays a vital role in the recovery of endangered fish in the Colorado River Basin. Biologists at this field station, together with the Grand Junction CRFP, conduct research, monitoring, and management activities on native fish populations and habitat with a goal of recovering bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and razorback sucker. The station also works closely with the Ouray National Fish Hatchery to augment these endangered fish populations utilizing state-of-the art facilities and techniques.

The Vernal office assesses impacts of water development projects on endemic fish species of the Upper Colorado River system including the Green, White, and Yampa rivers. Species of interest include the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker where PIT tag antennas and river surveys are utilized for population monitoring.


Endangered Fish »

Endangered Fish

« Back to the top

Photo of a Colorado Pikeminnow. Credit: USFWS.

Photo of a Colorado Pikeminnow. Credit: USFWS.

The Colorado River Fishery Project was originally established in Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance in 1979 to conduct research and management activities benefiting endangered fishes in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Our mission is to develop and implement techniques that are used to recover four endangered fishes:

  • Colorado pikeminnow
  • Humpback chub
  • Bonytail
  • Razorback sucker

All of these fishes are native to the Upper Colorado River Basin and additional information can be found at the following site: http://www.coloradoriverrecovery.org/index.html


Nonnative Fish Management »


« Back to the top

Split photo of USFWS staff holding nonnative fish species. Credit: USFWS.

Split photo of USFWS staff holding nonnative fish species. Credit: USFWS.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is working to recover endangered fish while also working to minimize the impacts of non-native sport fishing. In general, stocking nonnative fish species in the upper Colorado River basin has been confined to areas where there is little potential conflict with endangered fish. Because trout tend to live in different parts of the river, they are not considered competitors with endangered fish and are not affected by nonnative fish management activities.

Currently the greatest threat to native fishes in the Upper Colorado River Basin is the increased abundance and distribution of northern pike and smallmouth bass. In coordination with state wildlife resource management agencies, nonnative fish removal programs have begun in the Green, White, and Yampa Rivers.


Population Monitoring »

« Back to the top

  • Photo of an electrofishing raft Credit: USFWS.
  • Mid-size pikeminnow collected from the Green River_Matt Breen UDWR.
  • Small pikeminnow collected from the Green River_Matt Breen UDWR.
  • Photo of an egg sorter at Ennis National Fish Hatchery. Center Credit: USFWS.

Field studies emphasize quantitative estimates of population size and determination of basic life history and habitat requirements. Populations estimates of Colorado pikeminnow and humpback chub are being conducted to determine if these two species are progressing to where downlisting can occur. Because these species declined prior to any knowledge of their life history, basic questions on early life history are being answered, particularly with razorback sucker and bonytail and the role of floodplains as nursery areas for these species.

Green River:
Pikeminnow have been collected from the Green River in Utah. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources report seeing several mid-size fish (400 mm) of which many are not tagged. Also collected are smaller pikeminnows from 2009 (150 mm) which indicate signs that populations are increasing.


Floodplain Restoration »

« Back to the top

Sunset overlooking The Green River. Credit: Jaclyn Kircher / USFWS.

Sunset overlooking The Green River. Credit: Jaclyn Kircher / USFWS.

Habitat enhancement in the Green River subbasin has also addressed floodplain restoration. Inundated floodplains provide critical nursery and adult habitat for endangered fishes. Floodplain restoration actions have included breaching or removal of several levees to increase the frequency of floodplain connection to the river, and improvement of water control structures to increase management options on the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining Bureau of Land Management lands on the Green River. In addition, wildlife easements have been purchased from willing landowners to increase river connection to important floodplains. Research by the Vernal CRFP and other program participants has shown that floodplains will play a major role in recovery of endangered fishes.


Instream Flow »

« Back to the top

Vernal Instream Flow. Credit: USFWS.

Vernal Instream Flow. Credit: USFWS.

Instream flow recommendations have been either completed, or are in some stage of approval, for all mainstem reaches and major tributaries of the Upper Colorado River Basin that support the ‘large river’ endangered fishes. Flow recommendations developed by the Vernal CRFP are being used by Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services staff to update biological opinions for the Yampa and Duchesne rivers. Data collected by the Vernal CRFP also contributed to the flow recommendations in the Green River and operation of Flaming Gorge Dam. Habitat enhancement in the Green River subbasin has emphasized instream flow needs and floodplain restoration. All flow recommendations are subject to state law and existing water rights.

Currently the Vernal office is monitoring endangered fish response to flow recommendations in coordination with other state and federal agencies. One project in particular is the Larval Trigger study. This study coordinates the timing of dam releases from Flaming Gorge to match the appearance of razorback sucker larvae. When larvae are collected by CRFP staff, Bureau of Reclamation is notified, and they make releases from the dam in order to create floodplain wetlands to serve as larval habitat.


Partnerships »

« Back to the top

The Vernal Colorado River Fish Project functions in support of the Recovery Implementation Program for the Recovery of Endangered Fishes in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The recovery program is a broad coalition of states, agencies and private interest groups committed to establishing self-sustaining populations of endangered Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub, and bonytail while providing for new water development in the basin. The recovery program agreement was initiated in 1988 and renewed in 2002. While a large portion of funding comes from hydropower revenues, Congress has authorized the continuation of the program through 2019.

Funds provided to the program support actions among the following operational categories:

  • Habitat/Instream Flow Restoration
  • Nonnative Fish Management
  • Propagation and Stocking (accomplished by Ouray National Fish Hatchery)
  • Research and Monitoring
  • Staff from Fish and Wildlife Service field stations, together with program participants, plan and implement recovery actions as defined by the recovery plan.

Program participants include:


Staff »

« Back to the top

Tildon Jones
Supervisory Fish Biologist
tildon_jones@fws.gov


Aaron Webber
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
aaron_webber@fws.gov


Dave Beers
Fisheries Technician
dave_beers@fws.gov


Dolores Manning
Administrative Officer
dolores_manning@fws.gov

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: April 08, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
flickr youtube