With Slide Fire raging nearby, fingerling trout transported to safety
SEDONA, Ariz.—With the Slide Fire bearing down on Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery, the Arizona Game and Fish Department on Saturday, May 25, rescued some 600,000 trout fingerlings from the hatchery and transported them to safe sites.
The Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery typically produces 1.6 million eggs annually. In addition, the hatchery is responsible for 68 percent of the trout production for stocking in state waters. The emergency fish rescue operation that began at 6 a.m. helped ensure Arizonans will have trout to catch, and protected a portion of threatened, native Apache trout.
Four trucks made two trips each to transport more than 350,000 rainbow trout and 150,000 brown trout to Page Springs Hatchery, as well as more than 80,000 Apache trout to Canyon Creek Hatchery. Another 200,000-plus fry remain in Sterling Springs Hatchery tanks, too small to move, yet relatively protected.
Before the rescue, the Slide Fire incident management team ensured the hatchery was safe enough to allow Game and Fish personnel to enter and exit with minimal risk.
“Wednesday afternoon, things were getting pretty bad close to here,” said Bryce Sisson, manager at the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery. “We could see flames less than a quarter mile from the hatchery that afternoon when we left. A helicopter was dropping water real close to the hatchery. It was looking pretty scary on Wednesday.”
Water for the hatchery is delivered through a pipeline more than 1 mile long. Any fire compromise to the pipeline, which is fragile and above ground, would have quickly killed fish. Also, when monsoons come, water delivery again is at risk from a potential overland flow of ash, silt and debris that could put all trout in the hatchery runways at risk.