Trout stocking returns to Willow Beach hatchery
KINGMAN - State and federal agencies say they've found a short-term solution to bring back recreational fishing this fall in the Willow Beach-Bullhead City area.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with Mohave County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, say they will provide about 21,000 juvenile rainbow trout to be reared and stocked through the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery, which is located along the Colorado River south of the Hoover Dam.
The decision became official last Tuesday, the agencies say.
"This is a huge win for anglers in Arizona and Mohave County," said Chris Cantrell, fisheries chief for Game and Fish, in a release. "This will have a positive impact on all Arizona anglers, particularly from Willow Beach south to the Bullhead City area."
Last November, the hatchery - operated by the USFWS - conducted an emergency stocking of 11,000 rainbow trout when the low water level made it impossible to draw water.
The hatchery, however, lost 20,000 fish due to a lack of water movement through the system, the agency said. Since then, USFWS says the hatchery has been unable to rear or stock sport fish.
The hatchery has not actually been closed, USFWS Southwest Region officials say, but state officials say it nearly came to that.
"Fish and Wildlife was going to close Willow Beach down to sportfish production, which is rainbow trout primarily along the Colorado River," said Jim Paxon, special assistant to the director of Arizona Game and Fish Commission. "They are rethinking that decision, and we're seeking areas where we can cooperate with them. I know they have water delivery problems where the water is low, but we're seeing where we can help keep that hatchery viable with sports hatchery fish."
The Fish and Wildlife Service shorted operations at the hatchery without an economic impact study conducted for either Mohave County or Game and Fish, department officials say.
Despite the hatchery's pipeline and infrastructure damages, the latest solution will accommodate short-term angling as the agencies work in the meantime towards a long-term solution to supply trout for recreational fishing in Arizona.
"These are challenging times, but this is a great example of people working together to come up with a solution," said Stewart Jacks, USFWS fisheries and aquatic conservation assistant regional director, in a release. "That includes those working at the hatchery. They are 'boots on the ground' every day - no matter what's thrown at them, they come back looking for a solution with professionalism and dedication."
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission remains opposed to a reprioritization of National Fish Hatcheries by USFWS and will continue to work toward ensuring that the USFWS fulfills its commitment to support sportfishing in Arizona and across the nation, the agency said.
The hatchery is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.