I had the opportunity to take some time during the summer of 2021 and make two trips through Wyoming , the first with the intent of completing the Wyoming Cutt Slam ( more information to follow in a separate blog) the second with 4 other members of the HPD club for a 7 day trip. In the process of preparing for these trips i researched the areas and fish in them to get a better idea and discovered more than i was expecting.
I am going to be doing a series of blogs to highlight what i learned and make available a list of challenges that are available from different states and FFI . I find these interesting and educational and hope some of you will as well. I am including other states in these as some of us tend to travel when the opportunity presents it self and maybe some of what is posted here will prompt you to visit areas you may not otherwise consider or be aware of. Happy trails and tightlines as we move into the year of fishing and checking out new areas.
The first of these i would like to discuss is the Gila Trout and it is considered to be one of the rarest trout species in the United States. The extent of the historical distribution of the Gila Trout is not known with certainty. It is known to be native to higher elevation streams in portions of the Gila River drainage in New Mexico, the San Francisco River drainage in Arizona and New Mexico and tributaries to the Gila River in Arizona.
By the 1950s, however it's range was reduced to only 4 streams in the Gila River headwaters in New Mexico , and none were found in Arizona. The Gila Trout was listed as federally endangered in 1967 and re-classified as threatened in 2006 after efforts to restore populations were successful. Today Gila Trout conservation is guided by the Gila Trout Recovery Plan ( established in 2003) and the Gila Trout recovery Team which is composed of professionals from New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service ,the US Fish and Wildlife Service , the University of New Mexico , and the Arizona Game and Fish Dept. The agencies continue a program of streamside restoration- removing nonnative species, constructing barriers to prevent nonnatives from reinvading , and returning Gila Trout to streams.
Currently, five remnant linages exist (Main Diamond, South Diamond, Whiskey Creek, Iron Creek, and Spruce Creek) and there are oure populations of Gila Trout in 21 streams in New Mexico and four streams in Arizona, due to ongoing restoration efforts.
Gila trout have been restored as a sport fishery to four reservoirs and one stream in Arizona and in New Mexico there are currently four streams where you can catch a wild Gila Trout : Black Canyon, Willow Creek, Mineral Creek and Mogollon Creek. There are six additional locations in New Mexico that are open to angling and contain stocked populations. Additionally, the More National Fish Health and Technogy Center ( U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) maintains captive populations of all four Gila Trout linages.
Between 2007 and 2020 , the Western Native Trout Initiative has provided $479,375 in funding to eleven projects in Arizona and New Mexico to benefit Gila Trout conservation. These projects have ranged from barrier construction/restoration to keep nonnative trout out of conservation waters, habitat assessment after catastrophic wildfires, and public outreach and education.