The local Hemingway chapter of Trout Unlimited relocated 2,460 rainbow and brown trout from the Diversion 45 canal at Howard Preserve upstream into the Big Wood River Friday morning. Canal water recedes every year after the head gate is closed, but low river flows had left the fish in a worse situation this year as much of the county remains under severe drought conditions.
Around a dozen volunteers wearing waders and face masks used a 50-foot net to gather fish in several rounds, transferring them into buckets before tallying and releasing them into the river.
The 2.5-hour rescue operation was one of several that the group has organized this summer and fall. According to chapter member Ed Northen, 10,400 stranded fish had been rescued since June. Friday’s operation brought that total to about 12,900.
“The fish think the canal is the river and will swim right down. When the headgate closes [at the end of irrigation season], they get stuck,” longtime Trout Unlimited member John Finnell explained. “Are we getting all the fish? Not by any means, but we’re making a dent.”
Bruce Gondry, who recently joined the cause, said he found out about the rescues through a few friends in the local fly-fishing community.
“As more people become aware, hopefully more will participate,” he said.