Fifty Arizona groups and businesses share recommendations for trout fishery at Lees Ferry

Sportsmen, conservationists and fishing guides suggest ways to enhance conditions for rainbow trout and native fish downstream of Glen Canyon Dam

A rainbow trout. Photos/National park guide and NPS

A rainbow trout. Photos/National park guide and NPS

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - A coalition of conservationists, sportsmen's groups, fishing guides and local businesses submitted a list of recommendations for management of the Lees Ferry trout fishery to federal and state agencies responsible for maintaining and improving the blue-ribbon fishery. Sept. 11.

The list addresses concerns over an unstable rainbow trout population along northwestern side of Lees Ferry.

The collaborative recommendations were made possible through consultation with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Geological Survey Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center.

The recommendations will be provided to the Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service as they develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the adoption of a long-term experimental and management plan to determine Glen Canyon Dam operations and river restoration for the next 15 to 20 years.

The coalition, which included the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, the International Federation of Fly Fishers, Northern Arizona Fly Casters, Arizona Fly Casters, Desert Fly Casters, Anglers United, the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation and Marble Canyon guides and businesses delivered the report titled "Lees Ferry Recreational Trout Fishery Management Recommendations: The voice of Lees Ferry recreational anglers, guides and businesses" at a meeting of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group Aug. 26.

The work group advises the Secretary of the Interior on matters related to the operations of Glen Canyon Dam.

Currently, dam operations have direct and indirect effects on rainbow trout in the 16-mile stretch of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Marble Canyon, an area commonly referred to as Lees Ferry.

Completion of the dam in 1964 created a unique Tailwater Rainbow trout fishery that has grown in importance and reputation locally, regionally and nationally. However, varying water releases from the dam are currently affecting the production and diversity of insects in the river as well as the survival of young trout, and the growth and condition of adults.

The trout in Lees Ferry have experienced several significant population swings over the years, which has been bad news for local guiding and lodging businesses that depend on a reliable sport fishery.

"Currently, the Lees Ferry trout fishery is ecologically unstable," said John Hamill, Arizona field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "Our goal is to make sure the trout fishery gets a fair shake in the EIS process,"

These recommendations aim to boost the Lees Ferry fishery without detriment to downstream resources.

Recommendations included establishing a more diverse and stable food base, conducting a high-flow releases in the spring to help improve the food base and enhance trout spawning, testing the use of flows to manage trout in the Lees Ferry reach and reduce downstream migration, implementing a water temperature control device to release both cold and warm water, establishing re-stocking and environmental protocols for potential catastrophic losses of the rainbow trout population in Lees Ferry and creating a strategy to avoid the potential effects of poorly-oxygenated water passing through the reservoir.

"Our recommendations will improve the quality of the trout fishery and benefit many other Colorado River resources below Glen Canyon Dam," said John Jordan, conservation chair for Arizona Trout Unlimited. "We expect these steps to support the recovery of the endangered humpback chub, the improvement of camping beaches in Grand Canyon National Park, the development of hydropower generation and the protection of archaeological sites."

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