In June of 2017, a very familiar landscape to me started to burn. The Frye Fire burned over 48,000 acres on Mount Graham on the Coronado National Forest in Graham County, Arizona. I had long feared a fire on Mount Graham, but for all I knew about the risk to the endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel, I was unaware of the risk the fire posed to the Gila trout. Thankfully, a joint team made up of members from Arizona Game & Fish, and the Mora National Fish Hatchery traveled into Ash and Frye Creeks, areas affected by the fire, to rescue 190 federally listed Gila trout. On April 20, 2018, I got to visit those native fish.
I have worked in terrestrial riparian restoration for several years. Last year, I moved to northern New Mexico where there are incredible fly fishing waters. These two facts combined, have led me to become increasingly interested in habitat restoration within streams. From beaver dam analogs to breeding native fish, I am fascinated. Luckily, the Mora National Fish Hatchery is a short, scenic 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Santa Fe to Mora, New Mexico. Even luckier for me, the facility at Mora specializes in breeding and reintroducing the threatened Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae), a species whose habitat I am very familiar with.
Nate Wiese, the manager of the Mora facility, and fishery biologist reviewed with me the threats posed to Gila trout, recovery plan objectives, the interplay between recreational fishing and T&E species conservation, and breeding strategies. It was an enlightening experience, providing an opportunity for me to link my experience with terrestrial riparian systems with the in-stream riparian systems that are obviously so inextricably linked.
Enjoy the podcast and the embedded links for more information regarding our native Gila trout population and recovery efforts.