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home : features : nature September 15, 2014

1/8/2014 6:00:00 AM
Hatchery's closure would spell end to local rainbow trout availability
USFS/CourtesyThis rainbow trout caught in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. The announced closure of a Mohave County hatchery that releases rainbow trout locally could have a significant impact on the area’s tourism economy.
This rainbow trout caught in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. The announced closure of a Mohave County hatchery that releases rainbow trout locally could have a significant impact on the area’s tourism economy.

Don Martin
The Great Outdoors

A few weeks ago, I received a press release from both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department regarding the closure of the Willow Beach Fish Hatchery.

At first I didn't think much about it, but this is a situation that will have a major impact on the future of sport fishing in the Colorado River, from Hoover Dam all the way down to Bullhead City.

And it's a situation so serious that I'm hoping our elected officials will join together and try to keep this from happening.

Here is some history.

In the past year, there have been two events related to low water levels in the Colorado River that resulted in major fish kills at the hatchery, which is located on the river 14 miles south of Hoover Dam.

On August 12, piping used to bring cold, fresh water into the hatchery was clogged with vegetation. As a result, more than 40,000 rainbow trout were lost.

On Nov. 21, another low-water incident resulted in the loss of an additional 20,000+ trout, while another 11,000 were released directly into the river as an emergency measure.

Repairing the intake pipes needed to keep fresh water coming into the hatchery would cost at least an estimated $2.5 million, so the decision was made to close the hatchery to raising cold-water fish, which means trout production at the facility would end.

Here is the problem.

In the winter (October through March), there have always been weekly trout stockings at Willow Beach (2,000), as well as into the river around Bullhead City at the rate of 4,000 per month.

They also stocked trout in Indian reservation ponds in the area.

That means that trout fishing in the river from Davis Dam to Ft. Mohave is gone forever!

That means a lot of lost revenue for Arizona and the river communities that see an influx of winter visitors and locals who fish for trout.

Plus, the trophy trout fishing in the Colorado River around Willow Beach will soon be just a memory.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is worried about all of this, said Chris Cantrell, the fisheries chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"There is no question this [hatchery closure] is going to impact anglers from Willow Beach south to the Bullhead City area," he said. "Of course, other species remain in Lake Mohave and the Colorado River, but without stocking efforts, rainbow trout will not consistently be available long-term."

I was told that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has written a strong letter to the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about this issue.

Local officials, including Bullhead City Mayor Jack Hakim, also understand the impact of this decision.

But other elected officials, including the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, need to get involved and try to resolve this issue.

Right now there are no rainbow trout at Willow Beach.

There is the native fish portion of the hatchery still open, which gets its water from wells and not the Colorado River.

If something isn't done, trout fishing in the Colorado River from Willow Beach south to Bullhead City will soon be gone.

And while that means a tremendous loss for anglers, it will also mean a huge economic loss for Mohave County.

Related Stories:
• Mohave County wants Willow Beach hatchery kept alive

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: Allan Cole

We were not told the truth. The trout were killed on purpose so they can raise suckers. Who ever said those suckers were endangered anyway? What do they know? We see suckers all over the place at the river. The ecology changed when the stripers got into there. They eat trout, they eat all those suckers they spend millions on raising and stocking. Stripers are great sport and very good eating. We want our fishing back...
I don't care about suckers, chubs or frogs....we want trout planted again...

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014
Article comment by: Billy gfroerer

Don, I don't know where you have been the last 25+ years or so, but willow beach hasn't had "trophy trout fishing" since the floods of '83, when striped bass got into lake Mohave through the overflowing spillways at Hover Dam. I mean come on dude, your supposed to be the outdoor writer/reporter!

Since in mid 80's, the Trophy Trout fishery has been non existent! There is however, currently a Trophy striped bass fishery.. with fish into the 60 pound mark. But with the halt of trout stocking, that fishery is also on it's way out, because the big fish(Bass) eat the little fish(trout).

So that means that the millions of dollars that was just spent to rebuild Willow beach, with a million $ fishing peir... was all wasted!! No more trout, no more Stripers... means No more fishermen to spend their $$....Oh lets not forget about the Entrance station that was just built in Sept.. The one that is never open.

BTW, someone mentioned that not many people fish for the stocked trout.. Well you my friend have never been there on a Fri morning. I've seen it to where you could hardly find a place on the bank to fish, because of so many people.

Posted: Saturday, January 11, 2014
Article comment by: Wiley Coyote

So it sounds like they're not really closing after all. They're just shifting their focus to more endangered native fish that the rainbows displaced.

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014
Article comment by: V Stokes

I'm unclear...

Are these a non-native species or a native species that was decimated by the changes at the river?

If non-native...does it make sense to use taxpayers money to put fish in the river so other people can pay money to pull them out?

Clarification please....

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014
Article comment by: Nikki Berry

I'm with Willy on this.

We (the American taxpayer) send BILLIONS of dollars overseas every year, including $531M to Tanzania, $580M to Ethiopia, $625M to Nigeria, $625M to Kenya, up to a whopping $3.1 BILLION to Israel. Every. Year.

But somehow, although we seem to be able to afford all this "foreign aid" to help non-Americans, we can't seem to afford a mere $2.5M to improve our own country?

ONE MQ-9 Reaper (military drone) costs the Air Force $12.5 Million. We could fix 5 hatcheries in the United States with that money. For ONE drone.

As a nation, our priorities are messed up.

I believe we need a strong military. I believe that we need a strong DEFENSIVE force. But I don't believe that we need to spend the kind of money we're spending on it to the exclusion of all else.

You ask me where I'd cut to fund programs like infrastructure and create jobs?

Bring our military home, strengthen the border and coastlines, and stop invading foreign countries. Stop giving aid to other nations until our house is clean and in order.

Yes, I suppose I'm an idealist, and no, I don't expect change to happen, because those with power and money won't give it up, and those who care are powerless to make the change.

Impotentes defendere libertatem non possunt.

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

What part of the headline did everyone miss?

Many years ago I worked on building the hatchery at Willow Beach. Now I'm glad to see it going out of operation. It was taxpayer money being spent to provide the few who fished the river with fish to catch. If the river is naturally devoid of fish then let them eat cake.

If taxpayer money can't be spent on things such as unemployment, the poor, the under-educated, and the sick, then it sure in hell can't be spent on providing people with fish to catch.

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014
Article comment by: Ron Nyberg

More bad government. Sad, cut some of the waste and keep the fish. More than enough waste in this dept. Cut the jobs of those tending the toll gate to Willow beach its a net loss does not pay their wage and package. Sell the sheds used for that purpose. Put the hatchery opperation up for bid that will be the lowest cost way of fixing this waste. Let them pander for tax increases some were else this is a classic example of government black mail. The private operator could sell hatchery tours and have a gift shop and be fare more red tape free than this bunch that has not managed a rainy day fund other than black mail.

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014
Article comment by: Free Willy

Looks like we have a quorum based on the comments. Shall we take a vote most likely unanimous in favor of funding. Now lets get some realistic bids and provide fresh water to the fishies. Hey I know why don't we solicit the insurance companies for the funds and or banks. They make nothing or create anything. But they get their commissions and fee's. When was the last time you heard of one of the these companies doing something like this for the community.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: Nay Mama

This is awful! Where am I to send my husband on his days off?
Seriously, whenever a fish that is indigenous to an area, is allowed to be killed off, is one of the worst disasters to that ecosystem. Have we not learned this yet as a people after seeing it happen all up and down the river and lakes? How about when all the indigenous flora was replaced by dirt and palm trees in the Needles area. It changed the ecosystem and it will never come back the same.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: The fox in the henhouse

Let's face it- the government can no longer afford itself. Time to shut it down.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: original southsider

I remember as a kid catching rainbow trout 20 inches plus just above Davis Dam. 10 was the limit but with 3 other brothers we did pretty good. It's exciting to catch trout and the fight they give, plus they are the best cooked in a iron skillet. F&G then introduced the stripers and that was it, no more trout. Im still bitter just thinking about it and what was lost was done years ago. I now go to the White mountains to fish for trout.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: Uncle Anson

Perhaps the BOS could champion keeping the rainbow trout. I mean after all, they don't growl and eat cattle and you don't have shoo them off the roads.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: old angler

Seems to me I can remember catching some trout from the bank of the Davis Dam back in the 80's. The introduction of stripers soon made the trout their main food source. I always thought that the stocking of trout in the river was just a way to keep the stripers from starving. I don't remember many people catching trout on the river. Weren't the gnats introduced by F&G? That worked well too. Can't wait to see what they come up with to replace the money spent on the hatchery. Maybe an introduction of gators to the river would be a great new project. It's just money. Heck, raise the price of fishing licenses and who knows what could come next.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: Gisela Potokar

This is terrible news for the whole county! Surely there are funds out there to help fix this situation.
Will the Miner publish the names and contact info for the Supervisors again, please!
Darn, just as I got my Pioneer Fishing License, this has to happen.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: Free Willy

Sure we can spend dollars on military hardware and blow them up with less concern about the amount of money were loosing but when comes to something like creating jobs in the US and doing something for our wildlife our government is shutting it down. WOW I would like to know what elected official is supporting this closure.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by: kevin lake

it's a shame, that this seems to be the way our govt. does everything anymore. i'm sure if it was for a foreign country or in Washington dc. they would find a way to keep it going. once again the American taxing citizen gets the short end of the stick. kevin lake

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