Bringing Back Blueheads in Colorado

The BLM Colorado Northwest District fisheries program is working closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to help bolster populations of the native Bluehead Sucker in the Yampa River Basin.              

BLM biologist holding a Bluehead Sucker.
BLM Colorado Northwest District Fisheries Biologist Tom Fresques holds a Bluehead Sucker while out on the job. Photo by BLM Colorado.

Last summer the BLM helped CPW stock 5,000 Bluehead Suckers implanted with small electronic tags into Milk Creek, a tributary of the Yampa River located in the Little Snake Field Office. Biologists then deployed several small devices that can collect data from the tagged fish that swim near them.          

“The tags are helping us monitor movements, including within Milk Creek and also into and out of the Yampa River,” said BLM Colorado Northwest District Fisheries Biologist Tom Fresques. “We have temperature probes in place to try to correlate Bluehead Sucker movements with water temperature in hopes of determining when they spawn in Milk Creek.”              

A Bluehead Sucker.
Bluehead Suckers are endemic to the Colorado River Basin but are on the decline range-wide. Photo by BLM Colorado.

Biologists are electrofishing Milk Creek to collect stocked fish and evaluate the health of individuals. They are also removing non-native fish including White Suckers, Creek Chubs, Black Bullheads and sunfish to help reduce competition with the stocked Bluehead Suckers and other resident native fishes.        

An electronic device that monitors data from tagged fish.
BLM and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have implanted Bluehead Suckers with small electronic tags and deployed electronic devices that can collect data from the tagged fish. Photo by BLM Colorado.

Bluehead Suckers are endemic to the Colorado River Basin and are on the decline range-wide.  BLM biologists are working with other agencies across the range of the fish to maintain and increase populations. CPW is planning additional stockings over the next four years to increase populations of this native fish in the Yampa River Basin.