I found this article in my most recent copy of North American Fisherman and fiqured it was worth posting.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM-Should Gila tout be removed from the endangered species list? That question is being debated in New Mexico, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed downlisting the trout to "threatened," which would allow limited angling.
Trout Unlimited (TU) doesn't agree, "We base our concerns on the USFWS's failure to meet its own criteria for downlisting," says Bill Schudlich, chair of TU's New Mexico Council. "Their rules call for the protection and replication of the four pure lineagesof Gila trout, but then they admit that only three of the four lineages have been replicated."
The species was listed as endangered in 1967, and since then its population has been restored in three counties in New Mexico and two in Arizona.
This may be old news to people that live and fish this area but I found it rather interesting living in the north. Is it fair to say that being restored in a total of 5 counties in 2 states is worth being downgraded? It's my honest opinion to say NO!! I don't know anything about the Gila trout and it's range in these 2 states but that doesn't seem like much water in that big of a area to be downgraded.
Will be very interested to hear from people in these areas to their views on this.
And again if this is old news then I'm sorry. Just thought it was worthy of being posted. Many other people around this great country might not realize stuff like this is going on.
I agree with your position that it shoud not be downgraded. If we haven't figured out yet how to bring them back in greater numbers, what makes us think we can maintain the population now that mountainous trout fishing is more popular?
OK now i finally have something to say about something I actually know a little something about.
First of all, the issue of only 5 counties: The 2 counties in Arizona in question are the size of some of the NE States. This trout only existed in three counties in Arizona in the very few streams that actually run year round. One of the creeks in Coconino County, Oak Creek, will never be reintroduced because of its popularity and the fact that Rainbows and Browns have been introduced and out-compete the smaller Gila.
There has been talk of reintroduction in West Fork of Oak Creek (a much smaller tributary) but it would require the poisoning of the creek to remove the Browns that moved up stream during high water events and have established themselves there. I think that AZGFD is not able to foot the bill, and there is concern that the Browns will just move back in at the next flood and once again wipe out any introduced population. The creeks where the Gila has been successful (in the White Mountains) have large "fish dams" and hefty fines for trespassing and angling right now. I am not really familiar with New Mexico's progress but understand, that the counties in that State are on the same watershed just across the AZ/NM border. The Gila is doing pretty well by all I have seen (volounteer work) and read. It is possible that single barbless hook, catch and release, fishing could be supported.
Remember that the Gila is a realetivly small, demure trout, unlike it's cousin Rainbow. The biggest draw back to complete re-intruduction is that this little guy does not take to hatchery life all that well. The Apache does, and is the reason this fish is doing so well. Also, the Gila is out-competed by nearly every other trout for food and cover and will cross breed successfully with Rainbows. The streams where this trout is to be introduced must have all other species removed and be very controlled.
Remember, when debating this issue, the traditional range of the Gila was VERY small to begin with, and even if it could be 100% re-established, would pale in comparison to nearly every other species.
First off i'd like to say that it's nice to hear from you again.
Second it's nice to har a bit more about this from someone that's actually done some volunteer work on this project. For the most part I understand more of what's going on now. The only part that I wouldn't agree to would be the poisoning in the West Fork of Oak Creek. I would be worried that even though it is being used in a controlled effort what kind of effect would it have on the other forms of life in this area. And then I'd also say that I'd be worried about the poison getting out of the controlled area and getting downstream.(not sure if this would be a problem since I don't know the area)
In the other areas that you mentioned it's nice to hear that progress has been made. My question though is do you think that it's safe to downgrade the Gila to threatened or better to leave it like it is for the time being?
ok, lets see.
here's what i think, I think that a substantial amount of money could be dedicated to the recovery of the Gila IF a special stamp was issued to allow a fishing for this trout. Currently Arizona pays for a very large portion of its trout stocking programs through the sale of trout stamps. Since rainbows cannot reproduce on their own in this State (except a few of the coldest lakes in the White Mountains and Lee's Ferry) Arizona has been funding their SUBSTANTIAL stocking efforts through the sale of these stamps.
I also believe that most fisherman would not pursue the Gila because most fisherman want to keep their catch. I don't believe the Gila could withstand harvesting. I also don't think the Gila would be to threatened by "RAINBOW POWER BAIT WITH SPARKLES" either. This stamp should be issued to anyone who wants to say "I have caught and released one of the two native species of trout found in Arizona." It would be a tremendous trophy for anyone eventhough the average size of an adult is only about 7-9 inches. Tag on the Apache, and, VIOLA!, that would be the "Grand Slam" of Arizona, as far as trout are concerned.
As far as the poisoning of West Fork? It wouldn't be the first creek they did it to. All of the creeks where this trout is currently have been poisoned prior to re-introduction. Its actually quite fascinating as to how much research and effort is put into making the creeks as pristine as possible and only allowing a pre-settlement population of species back in. They go as far as trying to ensure that even primary production (allege and plankton) is as correct as possible. The concern with West Fork is that initially this little tributary could be protected, but it is TREMEDOUSLY popular with hikers and sight seers, and Oak Creek proper is one of the most used streams in the State ( if not THE used stream) with fisherman as well as any other outdoor recreationalist. Oak Creek is the single most stocked water in the State and has a very healthy population of Browns. Come the first high water event, which can be incredible, those non-native species would be free to move up the canyon. Eventually they would out compete the Gila and render the population once again extinct. Oak Creek was traditionally the most heavily populated stream of the Gila Trout. Stocking non-native species and over fishing wiped them out of the creek.
One more thing, TU's objection has little to do with current population but more to do with Genetics. Having 4 pure lineages of Gila trout as opposed to 3, has to do with diversity in the hatchery. A mutation in the population can be masked by diverse genetic input. The concern is for "inbreeding" which can render a population susceptible to disease and deformity. If two breeding pairs carry the same gene, it will be expressed 100% of the time. If that gene causes gill deformities, it can threaten the species. My understanding (and I am only a laymen here) is that USFWS believes it can sustain a strong healthy breeding program. Just something to think about.
i like your idea of a special stamp for the gila. i would think that not everyone would buy one but enough would be sold to help out. the idea of catching as you put the grandslam of the two native trouts in these two states would be a very nice conversation piece. put in the possibility of the state selling a special patch or placque for anyone that has photograph proof of finishing the grandslam and then you have even more money for the gila trout program.
there is money to be made from something like this to help protect the species. this money could be used for funding and research.
the concern for inbreeding and genetics is of a concern that i wish would have been mentioned in the article that i read. this concern is very important to help preserve a healthy species in the wild. i'm also glad to hear that you knew something of the poisoning. being nothing more than a layman myself i'm glad that they do all they can to keep from damaging the ecko system.
i hope that once this is all settled that one day you'll get the chance to complete the grandslam of trout fishing in your area and would love to see photos. i wish you best of luck in this and await your return home. after spending time with family and friends, catch up on some fishing, and most importantly finally relax.
i salute you and all of our armed forces. USAF 88-92
I've been thinking this one over and over and over, and the only logical answer I can conjer up is it's not worth the moey to poison Oak Creek, because of the flood factor. They should find a few(mabey 4-5) poison them, and stock them... they don't have to be big named ones, but a few UNnamed ones.
Just my thoughts, and they don't make much sense! hahahaha!
I think that the idea of reintroducing Oak Creek has already been discounted. I have heard very little on the subject since the idea was talked about a few years ago by AZGFD/USFWS. Flood events and human traffic were the biggest worries at the time. The Gila has been reintroduced in quite a few small "unnamed" creeks around Arizona, although New Mexico has been more successful at it's programs. I believe their programs are ahead of Arizona's because of the remotness of the streams being stocked. Arizona is a long way from the sleepy little Western State that I grew up in as kid now-a-days. NM has more water, less population, and less access, and that only helps the effort. I for one don't think the Feds take "delisting" any species lightly, and if they think it will work, I am not educated enough on the subject to really argue against them. TU my have a valid point, and USFWS can always re-list the Gila or simply not let it be fished.