AGFD takes first step toward southern Arizona Gila trout fishery

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November 9th, 2009

Airlifts fish up Mount Graham canyon for creek stocking

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The Arizona Game and Fish Department took its first step toward recovering Gila trout and establishing a Gila trout fishery in southern Arizona on Wednesday, Nov. 4 when it began stocking Frye Creek on Mount Graham in the Pinaleño Mountains.

The fish were trucked in from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mora National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center in New Mexico to the department’s Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area near Pima, Ariz.This morning they were transferred to transport drums, which were attached to a helicopter by long line slings, then flown to Frye Creek.

Three crews staged on the mountain to receive the fish, hike them up to three miles into Frye Canyon along a rebuilt trail, and stock them into creek pools.

“With a load of fish, this was physically taxing, but well worth the effort,” said Jason Kline, a department fisheries program specialist. “It’s an historic occasion, as it will provide five miles of Gila trout recovery stream and be the first fishable population of Gila trout in Arizona.”

In addition, Kline noted that once the Gila trout population there stabilizes as early as three years from now, anglers will be able to fish for five species of trout on the same mountain, including the hybrid Apache, brown, rainbow and brook trout.

Five miles of Frye Creek from its headwaters to the Frye Mesa Reservoir have been closed to fishing since mid-October, and will remain so until the Gila trout population there is thriving. Thereafter, “limited opportunity” fishing will be initially allowed.Fishing at the reservoir is still permitted.

Fires in 1999 prevented efforts to stock Gila trout into Dude Creek in the White Mountains. A small but unfishable population of the trout was introduced into Raspberry Creek there in 2000.

First described in 1950, Gila trout in Arizona were listed as an endangered species in 1967 and have been a threatened species since 2006. This will be only the third site in the state where Gila trout have been released.

“This will create a very unique fishing experience,” noted Acting Regional Supervisor Don Mitchell of the Game and Fish Department office in Tucson.“Apache trout inhabit streams atop Mount Graham already, creating the distinct possibility of catching two native trout on the same mountain in the near future.”

Approximately 20 state Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service officials participated in the stocking. Also to be stocked with Gila trout as part of the project will be Grapevine Creek in Prescott.Approximately 150 trout will be stocked there.

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