The Cutthroat Race Up Rock Creek

The Cutthroat Race Up Rock Creek

From Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek

Adopt and name a tagged cutthroat, and watch its movement- LIVE! Go to MontanaTU.org/race-up-rock-creek Your donation will go toward supporting Trout Unlimited's habitat restoration and conservation in Rock Creek!

Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek

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Recent Updates

Update #17

9 months ago

We have been pretty busy with spring sampling work and tracking a lot of fish, but we're finally getting around to sending the first update of the year!
We have had 3 fish die....sorry George and The Missoulian Angler. The others are active - if you catch one let us know!

For a little background, we currently have 53 radio transmitters out. 40 new and 13 leftover from last year. We put transmitters out in four different sections this year to try and see if fish from different areas would use different tributaries compared to fish from last year. The sections are Tamarack to the mouth(and some in the Clark Fork), Microburst to Wahlquist, Clark Ranch to Windlass Bridge, and Forks to Ranch at Rock Creek.

So far we have 13 fish that have entered tributaries as of 5/29. 2 in Gilbert Creek, 4 in Stony Creek, 1 in Ross Fork Creek, and 6 in the West Fork! The first fishes entered tributaries around 5/10. There are a number of fish that are starting to move in Rock Creek that will probably entered tributaries in the next few days....

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Watch the fish on our live tracking map

Every spring, cutthroat trout congregate in healthy tributaries of the Clark Fork River to begin their long journey up the stream to spawn. 

By sponsoring one of these fish, you can help Trout Unlimited and Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks with habitat improvement projects identified by this multi-year study on cutthroat trout.

This is year two of FWP's study to tag and track cutthroat trout during the fish's quest to reproduce and through the summer. Tracking their movement identifies spawning areas, barriers to migration, and how temperature affects summering habitat. Watch for weekly updates to the online map. See which fish swims the most overall miles throughout the summer.  

This is year two of the study and our final year for fundraising. Help us reach our $5,0000 goal!

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
9 months ago

Update #21

We have been pretty busy with spring sampling work and tracking a lot of fish, but we're finally getting around to sending the first update of the year!
We have had 3 fish die....sorry George and The Missoulian Angler. The others are active - if you catch one let us know!

For a little background, we currently have 53 radio transmitters out. 40 new and 13 leftover from last year. We put transmitters out in four different sections this year to try and see if fish from different areas would use different tributaries compared to fish from last year. The sections are Tamarack to the mouth(and some in the Clark Fork), Microburst to Wahlquist, Clark Ranch to Windlass Bridge, and Forks to Ranch at Rock Creek.

So far we have 13 fish that have entered tributaries as of 5/29. 2 in Gilbert Creek, 4 in Stony Creek, 1 in Ross Fork Creek, and 6 in the West Fork! The first fishes entered tributaries around 5/10. There are a number of fish that are starting to move in Rock Creek that will probably entered tributaries in the next few days....

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
9 months ago

Update #20

Some places race horses. Some greyhounds. In Montana, we’re betting on a group of tagged cutthroat trout as they race their way up the Clark Fork River.....read the article full article here: https://www.tu.org/blog/voices-from-the-river-the-race-up-rock-creek/

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
9 months ago

Update #18

The Race is On! We have over 50 fish contestants racing in this year's race. We started tracking and spotted some other wildlife friends while on Rock Creek this week. If you haven't sponsored your fish, get on it now! And stay tuned as these fish are just now starting their spawning migrations. May the best fish win....

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
10 months ago

Update #17

The Race Up Rock Creek is on!

Tagged cutthroat were released from 3 different locations on Rock Creek. We'll be tracking each individual's migration and distance traveled on the dashboard.

Adopt and name your fish now!
Your work supports fish passage and habitat improvement projects that we learn about in this study.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
10 months ago

Update #16

The 2019 Race Up Rock Creek begins next week!

If you haven't heard, YOU can Adopt a tagged cutthroat trout in Rock Creek and watch its movement LIVE on our website! Watch how your trout races against the others....see how fast it moves and where and how far it goes to spawn. The spawning migrations will begin in the next couple weeks.

Over the last couple of weeks, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks inserted tags into another 15 cutthroat. It's time to track them again- so adopt your trout now!

Stay Tuned to see which fish travels up the creek to spawn first.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #14

Water temperatures are rising and the fish are moving less, now that spawning is over for the year. The tracking will continue through the fall. Stay tuned to see where they find refuge from the summer heat! Next spring, we'll start back up again with the updates every few of days.

Okay on to the current events:

We have five confirmed dead fish out of our original 34 thus far. One was killed by an osprey and the others were likely killed by other critters or things related to post-spawning exhaustion.

Free Willy is the only fish that appears to have made a spawning migration from the 8 fish that were tagged near the mouth of Rock Creek. And five of these cutties swam far upstream to the uppe creek long after the spawning period, but why? It will be interesting to see if these fish stay in the upper creek now and then go on spawning migrations next year.

The fish in the middle have swam less than the lower and upper groups of fish (BORING). Lady is still up Hogback Creek. The remaining eight cutthroat in this middle group are occupying just 2.5 miles of the mainstem in the area where we originally caught them.

There are 13 fish left in the upper Rock Creek group. Charlie is still in the West Fork and Bruce is still up Ross Fork. The rest of this group returned to the main stem between the T-Heart Ranch and Sluice Gulch.

GO FISHING UP ROCK CREEK, and let us know if you catch one!

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #12

Fishing just downstream of Valley of the Moon, Roxy is nearby...perhaps this angler caught her.

We're encouraging all anglers and outfitters to let us know if they catch one of these fish so that we can record it.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #11

Can you spot the stream in this photo? It is the West Fork.
This valley bottom is a thriving willow complex. You can't even see the stream for the most part - just a sliver is showing itself to prove it is there.

What makes this good for the fish?
In these areas the stream cuts and braids among the willows, creating different sized channels with a variety of different sized gravels for spawning and clean water. The willows hold the banks together during the formation of the new channels, which keeps the banks from eroding into the stream. Willows also provide abundant cover over the stream, cut banks which cools the water temperatures. Willow root mass is extensive, and in effect the soil absorbs lots of water.

The water moves through the system slowly and stays cold, enabling successful incubation of eggs and habitat for young fish after hatching.

There were lots of anglers headed out onto the water to fish Rock Creek yesterday. The water was dropping and clearing, and the golden stones and green drakes are coming out. High quality habitat like this is needed to maintain the trout numbers and angling in Rock Creek.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #10

Hardships of spawning:
The cutthroat race to reproduce is a tough saga. Every year that a trout reproduces, his/her chance of dying increases. They are racing against high velocities and predation by osprey and heron, and forgoing normal feeding for the chance to spawn. Males fight - literally- to stake their territories. Females prepare redds for their eggs and will stay to protect them after fertilization by the males. The process is exhausting. Once finished, cutthroat return back to the river once they came to relax after the spawning frenzy.

https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/trout_spawning

18 of our tagged cutthroat have entered tributaries and 11 have returned to the mainstem. Interestingly enough, they are going home, or returning to where they were originally caught and tagged.

Lower Fish: The lower fish continue to ease there way up the creek. The fish that was in Williams Gulch has come back into Rock creek and is just upstream of the bridge near Williams Gulch. 5 of the 8 fish tagged in the lower section have now made there way into, and some above the Hogback section.

Middle Fish: A couple more fish entered tributaries this past week, two went into Williams Gulch and already returned. One headed into Stony Creek. Of the ten fish tagged in this section 5 have entered tributaries, 4 haven’t moved very far from where they were captured, one died, and that transmitter was recovered. These fish are using only using about 11 miles of river and the lower and upper groups are covering a lot more ground.

Upper Fish:
Some of the upper fish are starting to return from their migration.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #8

OK Fish Followers, Here's the deal- we study fish so that we can be outside more often...and this past week the biologists spotted this snake and a cinnamon colored black bear.

The other pictures are of Williams Gulch (the one with the wood) and the other is a picture looking up Rock Creek at the mouth of Hogback Creek.

Here's what's been going up this past week and a half in Rock Creek:

16 fish have entered tributaries (some of which have already returned to the mainstem):

HOGBACK CR
WILLIAMS GULCH
WEST FORK
MIDDLE FORK
UPPER WILLOW
ROSS FORK

Remember, FWP and TU are tracking mature (1lb +) cutties with active radio-transmitters in them that give off a continuous signal. We can track where they are when we hike near the stream and pick up their individual signals.

These transmitters are good through NEXT SPAWNING SEASON! That's news to me- buckle up and follow along with us and FWP to see the fate our new friends.

Lower Fish:
7 fish were originally released near the mouth of Rock Creek. Two months later, only Dorthy, Cutty, and Roxy are still swimming downstream of Sawmill Gulch. The rest are in the same stream reach as the "middle fish".

Middle Fish: Three went into tributaries to start last week. Lady is still in Hogback Creek above the cabin, and Silver is moving slowly around the mouth of Hogback Creek. One other is in Williams Gulch. See the picture of Williams Gulch with all the wood.

Upper Fish:
The upper drainage is moving! Fish are heading into the west fork and fish are heading into the Ross Fork. There's only 1 fish in the Middle Fork.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #7

THE RACE IS ON! Memorial Day weekend really ignited the migration and these fish are staying active.
What to watch for: FIsh moving up tributaries for a few days and coming back down. Why? This indicates spawning activities. They find suitable habitat in the tributaries to lay eggs before traveling back down to the river again.

The Fish in the upper drainage are the most active, swimming up the West Fork, Middle Fork, Ross Fork, and Upper Willow Creek.

Which fish we're watching:
Silly Goofers made a MIRACULOUS recovery! After a mortality signal was received, Sillly Goofers returned to the races! Hmm...something fishy is going on here. Watch as silly continues to goof with the Biologists.

Huckleberry:
He's all over the place, and its hard to saw if he spawned while up Ross Fork or not. He's now heading up the West Fork.

Jewel. Like an valuable Rock Creek Sapphire, she's elusive. Once lost, her signal was found again and she seems to be between Dalles rapid and Harry's Flat in Lower Rock Creek.

Lady. She's still up Hogback Creek. Will she spawn up here?

Hoss. He still has the record for traveling the furthest upstream in Ross Fork. He returned to the mainstem of Rock Creek over the weekend, and the biologists assume he has spawned already, naming him "the big winner for the quickest to get the job done". Well what did we expect? He's a hoss.

Ol' Greg. Restless, excitable, or old and senile, Ol Greg is swimming up and down.. He swam into Upper Willow Creek but not very far. Perhaps he heard the anglers calling and headed back to the famous Gilles Bridge, where he can be found now.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
almost 2 years ago

Update #6

Calmer waters call the cutthroat.
Lady was found in Hogback Creek. Do you see her in this photo taken of Hogback Creek from behind the Hogback Homestead?
Did you know- you can rent the Hogack Homestead that was built in the early 1900s. Book early. It's a popular destination to stay and fly fish Rock Creek, our blue-ribbon trout stream!

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
almost 2 years ago

Update #5

Trout navigate just fine in muddy water, but finding food is another story. And with the persistent turbidity and high flows, we're finding our tagged cutthroat around areas where the floodplain is accessible or the water comparatively clear.

A few brave soles swam up into tributaries after the major flooding from last week. Other tagged cutthroat are in the stream reach pictured here, near the bottom of Dalles rapid.

Stay tuned for more updates and pictures!

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
almost 2 years ago

Update #4

Rock Creek is flooding!

We went out to track the fish with Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks on Friday. We found radio signals for all but 3 cutthroat. Those 3 fish were last found at the lower end of Rock Creek, but we will have to wait or otherwise use a water craft to find those fish right now. Lower Rock Creek is closed due to flooding. Rightfully so -the creek is spilling over its banks and there is a lot of water on the road.

The rest of the cutthroat are making their way slowly upstream. In the next couple weeks or so we expect them to start racing up nearby tributaries to spawn. That is when the real excitement will start.

Keep watching!

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
almost 2 years ago

Update #3

The Race Up Rock Creek is on! The fish are starting to move upstream.

CHECK OUT OUR MAP: https://montanatu.org/race-up-rock-creek/

They like to spawn when the river is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit when the gravel beds are replenished for their Redds, or spawning beds, during high spring flows.

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
almost 2 years ago

Update #2

Check it out! The Missoulian joined us for our tagging effort and wrote up a great article.

http://montanauntamed.com/montana-untamed/article_fed83c5b-7c6e-5f78-b7ab-e2ccb2897951.html

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Trout Unlimited's Race Up Rock Creek posted a new update:
almost 2 years ago

Update #1

We're coordinating with FWP to get timely updates on fish movement, Stay Tuned!

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