LIMITED ANGLING FOR GILA TROUT WILL OPEN JULY 1, 2007
Limited angling opportunities for Gila trout will open July 1, 2007 in select streams in southwestern New Mexico. These streams have been closed to fishing since 1966, when the Gila trout was first listed as a federal endangered species. The State Game Commission approved the changes at its March 28 meeting in Las Cruces, based on the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to downlist the Gila trout from endangered to threatened.
The new regulations allow the Department of Game and Fish to open angling
opportunities for Gila trout and open select streams that previously have been closed to all fishing. Opportunities and rule changes approved by the Commission include:
1. Limited angling will be allowed for Gila trout in Black Canyon Creek from July through September as a Special Trout Water. Fishing will be catch-and-release only, and only artificial flies or lures with single barbless hooks will be allowed.
2. Iron Creek will be open for year-round angling as a Special Trout Water with a two-fish daily limit. Only artificial flies or lures with single barbless hooks will be allowed.
3. Regular trout water rules will apply to Sacaton Creek, with no tackle or bait restrictions and a bag limit of five fish per day with no more than 10 in possession.
4. McKenna Creek will have an unlimited bag limit and no restrictions on tackle or bait, as part of a project to remove all non-native trout and restock the water with pure-strain Gila trout.
5. Anyone who fishes in Black Canyon and Iron Creek must have a free Gila Trout Authorization along with a valid New Mexico fishing license.
Authorizations will be available June 1 on the Department's Web site at NMDGF
The gila trout is similar to a Cutthroat trout and a native to the Southwest United States, in Arizona and New Mexico. It is an endangered species. The Gila trout has been threatened by competition and hybridization with introduced game fish (such as the rainbow trout). However, the primary cause of reduced Gila trout populations is habitat loss caused by loss of water flow and shade-giving trees, caused in turn by fires, human destruction of riparian vegetation, livestock overgrazing, agricultural irrigation and water diversion, and channelization of streams in the Gila trout's native range.
By the time the Gila trout was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1967 its range had reduced from several hundred miles of stream to just 20 in the Gila Wilderness and Aldo Leopold Wilderness. After listing USFWS began an aggressive program of stream restoration, removing the introduced trout, restoring and repairing riparian vegetation (to maintain cooler water temperatures), and restocking restored streams with young Gila trout. The species is now more secure than it was in the 1970s, having been moved to 10 new streams, though populations and habitat are still far below those originally established. Conservationists hope to eventually delist the species and allow fishing, thus forming alliances with fishermen in order to help preserve the species.