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Fish Research Hatchery
Fish Research Hatchery

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Fish Research Hatchery (FRH) is located a few miles west of Fort Collins, Colo., in Bellvue. Fish Research Hatchery personnel work closely with CPW aquatic researchers, native species coordinators, biologists, hatchery managers, various recovery programs and CPW administrators to accomplish research recovery goals and objectives. Over the years, FRH has cont​​​ributed to a wide spectrum of aquatic research — from fish nutrition and salmonid brood stock development to boreal toad production. ​

Currently, the FRH is working on the following projects and research topics:

Whirling Disease Resistant Strain Research

The Fish Research Hatchery produces, cultures and maintains Hofer brood and Harrison Lake brood rainbow trout. CPW-led research​ has shown that these specific sub-species of rainbow trout have shown to be more resistant to the parasite that causes whirling disease than other sub-species. The results from this research have now been integrated into Colorado's hatchery system where Hofer strains are being produced for stocking throughout Colorado.

Greenback Cutthroat Trout Brood Stock

The Fish Research Hatchery hatches and rears greenback cutthroat brood stock (mature fish used for breeding) for the Poudre Rearing Unit. Greenback cutthroat trout are listed as threatened on the state list. CPW's recovery plan for the species request a certain number of fish each year for recovery projects (reclamation and restoration) and recreational stocking (high mountain lake plants). On an annual basis, FRH produces approximately 10,000 potential greenback cutthroat brooders. The FRH transfers potential greenback brood fish to the Poudre Rearing Unit depending on PRU needs.

Roan Creek Cutthroat Trout Brood Stock

Along with CPW researchers and biologists, the Fish Research Hatchery is spawning Roan Creek Cutthroat trout in the wild. Eggs gathered in the wild are brought to the FRH where technicians can keep families separated until the genetics of each family is determined. FRH only transfers the purest strain of Roan Creek fish to the Glenwood Springs Fish Hatchery. Those fish then become the new generation of brood stock, helping to continue the unique lineage of cutthroat trout in Colorado.

Optimizing Rainbow Trout Production 

Optimizing Rainbow Trout Production Colorado’s hatchery system produces millions of rainbow trout annually. As new strains of rainbow trout, for example those resistant to whirling disease, are incorporated into the hatchery system, new challenges to rearing these fish arise. Along with CPW researchers, the FRH has been conducting experiments designed to optimize rainbow trout production in state hatcheries. Previous experiments have focused on the susceptibility of different rainbow trout strains to formalin, used to treat fungal infections in eggs and external parasites in fingerlings, the effects of hatchery rearing practices, such as rearing density, water flows, and ​​​crowding on sensitivity to formalin in rainbow trout fingerlings, and critical dissolved oxygen tolerances of rainbow trout. The results collected from these experiments will be used to reduce mortality of rainbow trout under culture conditions. Reduced mortality in the hatchery results in higher numbers of fish produced by the hatchery system, an increased ability to meet biologists' fish requests and, ultimately, provide more fish for Colorado anglers. Currently, experiments are being conducted to compare rainbow trout reared on rainbow trout feeds produced by different manufacturers. The objectives of this experiment are to determine if there is a feed that is not only cost-effective, but also increases the health, appearance, and post-stocking survival of, and angler preference for, rainbow trout produced in Colorado’s hatcheries. Please see the fact sheet for more information. ​

View past research projects in the Sportfish Studies Research Job Progress Reports on the Aquatics Publications page​.​

Associated Publications

Fetherman, E. R., J. A. Wardell, C. J. Praamsma, and M. K. Hura. 2016. Critical dissolved oxygen tolerances of whirling disease-resistant rainbow trout​. North American Journal of Aquaculture 78:366-373.