For the uninitiated, Arizona may seem an unlikely fishing destination. When conjuring images of Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Saguaro cacti come to mind, not so much cold-water brooks in alpine climes. However, as is the case with most things, Arizona isn’t so black and white. This state is home to many fishes. There is, in fact, a sport fish here that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
That is Arizona’s state fish: the Apache trout. Not normally occurring in large bodies of water, the Apache trout is native to the small, cool streams around the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. This species faced extinction due to competition from non-native trout, which were introduced for recreation.
Listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Apache trout is among those first species to gain federal protection. In 1975, the species was down-listed to threatened, opening the door to recreation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region fish biologists continue the work to restore this unique creature to its original habitat and to supply trout for recreation, as explains Zachary Jackson, the project coordinator and supervisory fish biologist for the Whiteriver station of the Service’s Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.
“Several Service programs come together to further Apache trout conservation. The Ecological Services program works on threatened and endangered species issues. The Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office works to implement recovery actions working closely with our partners, primarily the White Mountain Apache Tribe Game and Fish Department (WMATGFD). The hatchery program also plays a role in sport fish production for Apache trout as well as producing an Apache trout stock that could be used for recovery purposes.
“Over the course of time, there were a number of threats to Apache trout. Maybe most significant there was probably some overfishing. They were very popular. Sport fish introduced into their range really constricted them to the headwaters of their native range. Those non-native trouts introduced for improved sport fishing opportunities have a few different interactions with Apache trout that negatively affect them,” said Jackson.
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