, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 227-239

Fish species composition before and after construction of a main stem reservoir on the White River, Colorado

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The completion in the fall of 1984 of Taylor Draw Dam on the White River, Colorado, formed Kenney Reservoir — thus impounding the last significant free-flowing tributary in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Fishes were sampled above and below the dam axis prior to closure of the dam and in the reservoir and river downstream following impoundment. While immediate effects of the dam to the ichthyofauna included blockage of upstream migration to 80 km of documented range for endangered Colorado squawfish, the reservoir also proved to have profound delayed effects on the river's species composition. Pre-impoundment investigations in 1983–1984 showed strong domination by native species above, within, and below the reservoir basin. By 1989–1990, non-native species comprised roughly 90% of the fishes collected in the reservoir and 80% of the fishes collected in the river below the dam. Initially, fathead minnow, whose numbers quickly increased in the new reservoir, dominated all post-impoundment collections, but red shiner became the most abundant fish collected in the river below the dam by 1989–1990. While agency stocking programs for the reservoir sought to emphasize a sport fishery for salmonids, primarily rainbow trout, local enthusiasm for warmwater sport fishes resulted in illicit transfers of these species from nearby impoundments. Several species, formerly rare or unreported in the White River in Colorado, including white sucker, northern pike, green sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass and black crappie, were present in the river following impoundment. Our investigation indicates smaller-scale, main-stem impoundments that do not radically alter hydrologic or thermal regimes can still have a profound influence on native ichthyofauna by facilitating establishment and proliferation of nonnative species.

Cooperators are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Colorado State University