American billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II wants to make his already super-sized trout even bigger by injecting phosphorous into the river to create more habitat and food for the trout. Paul owns a 25,000-acre ranch that sits along the Blue River in Colorado. The section of the river is already known for its steelhead sized rainbow trout that many refer to as “pelletheads”. The private ranch doesn’t offer access to the general public, while many anglers do float through the area. You’ve probably seen the grip and grins and been surprised at the sheer size of these fish. So what would be the benefit of making these trout even larger?
According to an Aspen Times article, “The ranch expects that adding phosphorus to the river will grow more algae, a building block in the aquatic food-chain supporting fish. If the project helps the fish, water managers could use a similar one to restore the gold-medal status of a section of the Blue River upstream from the ranch’s property that the state delisted in 2016.”
“Scientists warn that adding too much phosphorus could create problems downstream. Excess phosphorus creates cyanobacteria, an algae that can be toxic to humans. Last summer, such algae blooms prompted the state to issue warnings and closures to lakes across the state, from Steamboat Lake, north of Steamboat Springs, to Denver’s Cherry Creek Reservoir.”
“We have to better understand those factors. And measure them. And then rate them,” said Richard Van Gytenbeek, the Colorado River Basin outreach coordinator for Trout Unlimited.
While this project could improve the habitat on the specific part of the Blue River, it could have a negative impact downstream where the Blue River meets the Colorado River.
Nick Keogh of Minturn Anglers, a permitted guide service on the Upper Colorado River stated, “This ranch is not far upstream from a part of the Colorado River that is one of the most popular stretches of river for recreation in the state that also contains one of its most important fisheries, one that many commercial outfitters depend on for their livelihoods. I would hope that the state would be absolutely certain there will be no negative downstream effects to this area, especially during low flow periods in late summer, before giving them a discharge permit.”
So will tinkering with a billionaire’s stocked trout really worth the risk of negatively impacting an already at-risk river system downstream? It may be too early to tell as the analysis of the impacts is still on-going.
Kirk Deeter and Tim Romano from Angling Trade also make a great point in stating, “Maybe instead of figuring out how to feed unnatural fish in the Blue, it’s time to acknowledge that certain rivers have a “carrying capacity”.
The Blue Valley Ranch hasn’t applied for a state discharge permit, which it will need to start the project. This is a developing story.