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Low catch rates spawn study of trout stock across Arizona

An Arizona brown trout caught in Oak Creek, (Photo from azwanderings.com)

An Arizona brown trout caught in Oak Creek. (Photo from azwanderings.com)

FLAGSTAFF ai??i?? Wildlife officials are trying to figure out through a study set to be completed next year why Arizona anglers are getting few fish.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is close to completing the four-year study of trout stocking practices across the state. Bill Stewart, an aquatic research program manager, said the study was spawned by hatcheries questioning data that pointed to catch rates falling short despite the number of stocked trout.

“Their questions were, ‘we aren’t seeing return when we stock fish in a stream, we don’t know where these fish are going after we stock them,'” Stewart said. “This study is really evaluating the fate of our stocked trout.”

Raising trout for stocking has been a practice in Arizona since 1922. Today, six hatcheries raise 385,000 pounds of trout that in turn get put in 118 sites statewide. Department employees have been surveying anglers at seven bodies of water for the study. They have also outfitted nearly 300 fish with radio tags to see if they are getting eaten by other animals, Stewart said.

The research so far has indicated one possibility: too many fish.

Putting too many fish in one place can lead to limited resources, Stewart told the Arizona Daily Sun (http://bit.ly/1KUfHm3).

Drought conditions have also aggravated declines in stocking abilities by the department. Bryce Sisson, a hatchery manager at Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, said fish cannot grow as big when there are fewer flows in waters. Researchers and hatchery managers hope the study will help close the gap between supply and demand for the fish.

“I think it’s valuable if we could find a sweet spot where the number of fish stocked leads to higher angler satisfaction,” Sisson said. “Anything to streamline and make us more efficient.”

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