Changing Values For Anglers


Humpback chub. Photo © George Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department

We appreciate the perspective Mr. Williams brings to the story:

Recovery: Humpback Chubs, New Values and New Hope for Endangered Native Fish


There are “undesirable fish,” “rough fish,” and “trash fish.” Humpback chubs, native to the turbulent, turbid water of the Colorado River system, are all three. They compete with nonnative gamefish like brown trout from Europe and rainbow trout for the Pacific Northwest. If you catch a humpback chub, you should squeeze it and toss it into the bushesSuch was the counsel I and my fellow anglers received from our elders and the fisheries management establishment until the 1970s.The humpback chub is huge for a minnow, sometimes attaining 20 inches in length. Adaptations to swift, silty flow include compressed skull, small eyes, a lateral line that senses vibrations of insect prey, large fins, forked tail, narrow caudal peduncle and a dorsal hump that acts as a stabilizer. These silver triumphs of 3.5 million years of evolution can live four decades.None of that counted in 1962 as the Bureau of Reclamation prepared to close the gates on the Flaming Gorge Dam and impound 91 miles of the upper Green River in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. One of the project’s alleged benefits was a nonnative fishery for rainbow, brown and lake trout and kokanee salmon. So, with no data, state and federal managers determined that the humpback chubs and other “undesirable” natives including Colorado pikeminnows, bonytail chubs, roundtail chubs and razorback suckers had to go.Accordingly, they poisoned 445 miles of the Green River and its tributaries with rotenone. An attempt to neutralize the poison below the dam failed, and dead natives piled up all the way to Dinosaur National Monument, 60 miles downstream.


Little Colorado River and mainstem confluence. Photo © David Ward, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center

Today all the afore-mentioned natives are listed as endangered save the roundtail chub, which is being considered for listing. Rotenone had far less to do with their demise than cold water disgorged by Flaming Gorge Dam and, on the main Colorado, Glen Canyon Dam.

Completed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1963, Glen Canyon Dam has extirpated pikeminnows, roundtails and bonytails from Grand Canyon National Park. Humpbacks, while still depressed, are doing far better there than they were at the turn of the 21st Century. And a few razorback suckers, long thought to be extirpated, are showing up.

There are three possible reasons, perhaps working in combination. One is an extended drought that has lowered Lake Powell so that discharge from the dam is nearer the surface and therefore warmer. Another is reintroduction of humpbacks from the Little Colorado River, their stronghold, to two other tributaries — Havasu and Shinumo Creeks…

Read the whole article here.

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