Current location: Denver, Colo.
A self-proclaimed “native trout freak” Erica Stock has been working in the conservation arena for more than 10 years. Erica got her start on the water in Oregon where she fell in love with salmonids. She currently resides in Colorado with her daughter, Portland, and husband, Tim. When she’s not out bow hunting or fly fishing, Erica spends her time rallying for native trout restoration and habitat conservation projects throughout the west.
What are you up to right now?
I like to joke that I have two full-time jobs. I’m working as the outreach director for Colorado Trout Unlimited and the director of strategic partnerships for the Western Native Trout Initiative.
Why are you so passionate about native trout?
Native trout are majestic fish. Each one is distinct and beautiful. Once they are gone you can’t go into a lab, re-create them and put them back in a river somewhere.
Native fish have been reduced to such a small fraction of their historical range that some species have been lost all together. It would be a shame to see this trend continue, but, given all the threats faced by native trout, it is a very real possibility.
That’s where groups like WNTI and TU come in. Both of these organizations have been integral in uniting the community and developing the National Fish Habitat Action Plans. These plans give us a glimmer of hope.
Tell us a little bit about National Fish Habitat Action Plans.
These plans encourage collaboration between different state agencies, federal agencies, local partners and non-profit organizations that have an interest in fish conservation and management. These plans allow for much more progress than if all these groups were working separately.
Prior to the establishment of these plans, there was so much fragmentation and inefficiency. Everyone was out doing what they thought were the top priorities – using their own science or no science at all. NFHAPs provide a game plan so individuals and groups can work together toward the common goal of rebuilding some of these fish populations.
Tell us about what you do for TU.
I work with our grassroots; Trout Unlimited has 23 chapters and 10,000 individual members in Colorado. I work with these partners on some great native trout projects and projects that benefit local communities directly – regardless of whether there are native trout involved.
How did you get into fishing?
I was on the Deschutes River in northwestern Oregon doing invasive plant removal. We were just getting off the river for the day when I decided to pick up my friend’s fly rod. It was on an Orvis four-piece rod. I was immediately hooked.
What are some of the greatest threats faced by fish populations?
There are 15 native trout for which WNTI works. Seven of these are threatened and the remainder are species of concern. Development has degraded important habitat for a long period of time. The introduction of non-native species like rainbow and brown trout has caused serious competition between native and non-native species. These non-native fish will hybridize with the natives, destroying their genetic purity.
Climate change is another big threat to native trout. We need to make sure these fish are going to have habitat as the climate shifts. Fortunately these fish are in headwaters and roadless areas on public lands – and that’s no coincidence. The best hunting and fishing are found in roadless areas. We need to be sure these areas remain pristine and relatively untouched.
Check out “TRCP’s Native Trout Adventures,” a video series featuring native trout fishing expeditions in spectacular landscapes across the Rocky Mountain West.