Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keep Stocking 'Em

A stocked rainbow is released back into a - gasp - Montana river.
Say what you will about stocked trout, but don't underestimate their importance to the pastime of fishing. The vast majority of the wild, stream born trout that we fish for today have a lineage that can be traced to hatcheries. Many a budding young angler's first trout was a stocked fish. Some regions of the country wouldn't even have trout fisheries if it weren't for hatchery fish - and believe it or not, many highly esteemed wild trout strongholds like Montana currently benefit from trout stockings.

And yet the state of Arizona could potentially lose its allocation of the Sport Fish Restoration funds that support the state's hatchery programs. If the trout stocking program in the Grand Canyon State is reduced or eliminated, it would be devastating to the state's trout fisheries. Recruitment of younger generations of anglers would undoubtedly suffer due to reduced opportunity. Local economies would feel the effects of fewer visiting anglers. The state's remaining fisheries (including its beloved wild brown trout streams) would experience more angling pressure.

Here is some background on the issue from the AZ Game & Fish (AGFD) website:

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federal agencies are required to analyze potential environmental effects of any action they propose to implement, approve, or fund. Because AGFD receives federal funds [$7 million in 2011] used to support its stocking program (along with state funds from the sale of licenses and trout stamps), the agency is required to complete an environmental assessment process to allow it to continue receiving those federal funds. This draft EA is a part of the federally required NEPA compliance.

“In a way, we do a balancing act,” said AGFD Fisheries Chief Kirk Young. “On one hand, Game and Fish wants to provide the public with enjoyable fishing opportunities, which create a huge economic benefit to the state. Yet on the other hand, as a wildlife agency, we also need to consider and manage for the needs of nongame and threatened and endangered wildlife, including native fish. Our proposed conservation and mitigation measures enable us to do that.”

AZ's Oak Creek - one of 66 fisheries effected by the "Reduced Stocking Alt."

Considering the current emphasis on native species restoration, it shouldn't be assumed that this EA process is just a formality and that the status quo will be maintained. The EA introduces three options including a Proposed Action which would maintain the current stocking regime and hatchery funding, but the EA also outlines two Proposed Alternatives - each of which call for varying degrees of stocking reduction/elimination in Arizona.

If you'd like to see the trout stocking program in Arizona continue, submit a comment supporting the Proposed Action by May 11th. You can find a link to the EA here:


  1. Great article Will. I posted a link to your post on my site to continue spreading the word. I have been watching this unfold and been more than a little nervous with the politics of the whole issue. Thanks for a very succinct article.


  2. Really good post Will, they do a little of that over here in Co, like Co, in Mt the rivers are so rich that a stocker is only a stocker for like a week before they begin to take on river habits and gain color from things like scuds and whatnot. The one in your pic, looks like its ready to make some babies soon!

  3. Thanks fellas. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, I hope that the angling community has voiced their support of the AZ hatchery program! I tried to drum up some additional interest on the subject through the likes of and etc., but as of yet none of these media outlets have stepped up. I guess stocked fish aren't a sexy topic.

  4. Hatcheries also will play a key part in restoring native fish to fisheries. For some natives, popn numbers are quite low, and the only way to bring those fish back to greatness is by supplementing with hatchery bred fish. I hope that this round of politics plays out in a positive way...