A breakthrough gravel enhancement project at Canyon Creek, the prized wild trout fishery located on the Mogollon Rim near Heber, has led to about 30 wild brown trout spawning sites in the newly added gravel, which is more than 50 percent of the highest number ever counted over a 2.5-mile section from the reservation boundary to the O.W. Bridge.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages Canyon Creek primarily for wild brown trout. The department expects one result of the project to be a more resilient wild brown trout population and enhanced fishing opportunities.

In early October, volunteers from Desert Fly Casters, Arizona Fly Casters and the Zane Grey Chapter of Trout Unlimited, along with Arizona Game and Fish Department personnel, hauled 20 tons of gravel in four hours, passing buckets and dumping the gravel onto spots in a 100-foot portion of the creek with favorable spawning conditions (ideal water velocity and depth).

Curtis Gill, an Arizona Game and Fish fisheries program manager, said a particularly hot summer of 2012 stressed fish populations and led to a 50-percent reduction in wild brown trout populations during the following year.

Although conditions were conducive to spawning, there hadn’t been any spawning activity within 100 yards of the targeted spawning sites selected for enhancement.

“The take home,” Gill said, “is that if you build it, they will come.”

Fishing regulations at Canyon Creek are split in two at the O.W. Bridge. There is a four-trout limit in the upper reach. The lower reach is artificial fly and lure only, and catch-and-release only for trout. As of Jan. 1, single, barbless hooks will also be required in the lower reach.

The brown trout spawn is over statewide until next fall.

Image courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department

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