Saturday, January 4, 2014

Grand Canyon Trout Fisheries Interview

Bright Angel Creek
I recently submitted a feature article covering Grand Canyon National Park for Southwest Fly Fishing, it will run in the May/June '14 issue. I enjoyed writing the piece and having the opportunity to share a place that I love with the magazine's readers.

I know the canyon and its trout fishery well - having lived within the park from '02 - '06, but much has changed since then. The National Park Service, along with cooperating agencies, have ramped up efforts to suppress non-native trout populations throughout the park. I'm not going to provide any background on the situation, I've written about it here and a Google search will reveal numerous sources of information on the topic.

For those interested in the Grand Canyon's trout fishery and in staying up to speed on the topic, I've decided to share a recent interview with Brian Healy, Fisheries Program Manager for Grand Canyon National Park. The overall tone of Mr. Healy's responses don't provide much optimism for Grand Canyon anglers, but keep in mind that he has an agenda, and a NPS mandate to adhere to. I don't necessarily agree with all of his responses, but I'm not going to disparage any of them publicly without first giving him the opportunity to respond. 

Are there plans to translocate humpback chub (HBC) into Bright Angel Creek, or Tapeats Creek, as has taken place in Shinumo and Havasu Creeks?
We just completed a fish managment plan that should be signed this week, including long-term management for translocations to Shinumo, Havasu, and Bright Angel (Tapeats is too cold). The plan is adaptive, and is informed by genetics and population monitoring. Here is a link to the EA:

Do the tributaries provide suitable spawning habitat for HBC? Is there concern that streams such as Shinumo, and Bright Angel in particular, are too cold for successful spawning?
There is no concern that Shinumo or Bright Angel are too cold for chub. The streams provide optimum spawning temperatures in the summer months. 

The trout reduction project on BA Creek over the past decade has made a notable impact on trout numbers. Has it been deemed a success, or is it too early to tell? Do you expect that the trout population in BA Creek will have to be manually suppressed in perpetuity in order to have a lasting benefit to native fishes?
I just started analyzing the data for BAC from last year- and it appears we have made an impact on brown trout numbers in lower BAC. However, its too early to tell what any long-term impacts may be, particularly since we hadn't been able to fully fund the project in the past. We don't know what the future will hold, but we proposed an adaptive strategy in the fish plan, with a decision point to be made in 5 years, based on the data.

Has it been determined if the removal of 20k+ trout that took place from ’03-’06 in the vicinity of the LCR confluence has had a positive impact on native fishes? Additionally, have trout numbers in the vicinity of the LCR confluence remained suppressed as a result of this project?
There are confounding factors making it difficult to determine. There are studies ongoing by GCMRC for this question, and I don't believe anything has been published since 2011 (Coggins et al. 2011, Yard et al. 2011). If you'd like I can send you those papers. 

Do you foresee the possibility of a quality trout fishery co-existing with a self-sustaining HBC population within the Colorado River and its tributaries throughout Grand Canyon?
No. The NPS is mandated to remove non-native species, including trout, from the Park. However, we hope to maintain a quality RBT fishery outside GCNP in the Lees Ferry reach within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (see fish plan link above). 

Do you have any advice for anglers currently seeking quality trout fishing within GCNP? Are there any particular tributaries or reaches of the Colorado River that maintain strong populations of trout? 
I've been recommending that they go to Lees Ferry, but I also ask that if they are going to BAC, that they remove and eat the trout they catch.  The reach above Lees Ferry, and Marble Canyon has a very high density of rainbow trout right now.


  1. We all knew that was their plan, but it's tough to hear such definitive answers like that from the head fisheries guy. Bummed, but thanks for sharing.


    1. Ben - I keep hoping that they will give up on the trout reduction efforts, and I think that they eventually will. That said, aside from lower BA Creek, the reduction efforts have had little noticeable impact throughout GCNP. But the loss of so many big, spawning browns in BA Creek is a bummer for sure. And with the possible exception of Havasu Creek, I don't foresee the chub translocation efforts being a success.