Apache Trout in Danger
Hatchery trouble in Arizona could impact Apache stocking programs.
- By: Aaron Otto
Apache trout swim freely in the cold waters of Arizona's White Mountains. Lakes and streams now brim with this native to the state of Arizona.
The mere ability to catch one of North America’s rarest trout is a joint government agency success story.
Rescuing the fish from the brink of extinction, a conservation effort with roots during the Nixon era has seen a successful resurgence in Arizona’s state fish. According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Arizona Game & Fish and the U.S. Forestry Services’ Apache Trout Ten Year Business Plan, there are 27 native-strain populations of Apache Trout in Arizona’s White Mountains in existence today. The Apache trout can only be found in its native State of Arizona, but due to a deteriorating waterpipe feeding clean water to Alchesay National Fish Hatchery, America’s rarest trout may be in danger.
The pipeline that travels 4,000 feet, normally delivering 9,000 gallons of a water flow per minute, is now delivering 4,000 gallons. The critical level is 3,500 gallons of flow, according to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s project leader Phil Hines. At 3,500 gallons per minute, the hatchery’s flows will be too slow and warm to sustain the 125,000 resident fish housed. Complicating matters is the $427,000 repair bill two years ago to patch a small section of the pipe that was leaking. Now it’s believed the entire pipeline is disintegrating. Additionally, the fishery supports the immediate area’s financial economy through employment and is a major draw for tourism.
A seemingly enormous repair bill hanging in the near future, combined with a likely drop in fishing-license and angling-tourism revenue for the area as the fishing declines, doesn’t paint a good picture for the longevity of the hatchery. Eighty-five percent of the 1.2 million fish produced annually at the hatchery, a majority Apache Trout, are sent to Arizona’s White Mountains streams. Currently the Apache trout brood stock and sport fish used for stocking have been moved to the adjoining hatchery, Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery, on the same campus as Alchesay,. The risk is that the Alchesay is forced to run at a greatly reduced capacity, substantially affecting the number of fish that can be held and supported on an ongoing basis. If the fish dry up then so do the license fees that are the lifeline that funds the Tribal Game and Fish and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s management of the facility. Without the agencies management, both the sport fishing opportunity and recovery efforts of the Apache Trout could disappear altogether.
According to project estimates, $3.5 million is needed to repair the pipeline and restore sufficient volumes of water to the hatchery. Currently, both the Apache Tribe and U.S. Government agencies are trying to figure out how they’re going to come up with the money.
For more on Apache trout, go to http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/apache_recovery.shtml
Aaron Otto is a freelance writer and photographer;