In a previous message we alerted NM Trout members that the NM Department of Game and Fish is seeking public comment on the draft of a new fisheries management plan that will help guide the department’s efforts into the future.
The Board of Directors has approved the letter below as the official response from the club. We encourage members to submit their own individual comments. A 129 MB, high resolution copy of the plan with excellent maps is available on the NMG&F website. A more compact version is available on the NM Trout website.
Public comments can be sent by email to DGF-StatewideFishPlan@state.nm.us. Please submit comments by October 31, 2015. For further information please contact Kirk Patten, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, at 505-476-8055.
October 20, 2015
Assistant Chief of Fisheries
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
1 Wildlife Way
Santa Fe, NM 87507
This letter is the official response of New Mexico Trout to the draft Statewide Fisheries Management Plan recently issued by your department for public comment.
First, New Mexico Trout wishes to commend you and your organization for all the thought and hard work that is evidenced in the draft. It is comprehensive. It appears that every permanent body of public water in the State that holds fish is addressed. The draft plan clearly recognizes and attempts to balance the sometimes-competing interests of put and take anglers, wild trout anglers, and those anglers and non-anglers alike who are concerned about native fish and their habitats. The maps are excellent. We have recommended them to our members as destination guides. We applaud the addition of recreational stockings of Gila and Rio Grande Cutthroat trout to the native trout restoration plans documented in the draft.
However, we believe that parts of the management plan can be strengthened. In general we urge the Department to deemphasize stocking of triploid rainbows in streams with strong, self-sustaining populations of wild trout, particularly those streams that are not readily accessible by roads. A specific example is the plan to stock triploids in the Rio San Antonio below the Valles Caldera Preserve boundary. The two-mile reach from the boundary to the San Antonio Hot Spring is a Special Trout Water with a wild brown trout population. Access is by foot at the end of a rough 4WD road. The four mile reach downstream of the Hot Spring is in a rugged canyon and only partly accessible by trail from Highway 126. We see no benefit from triploid stocking of that six-mile stretch of the San Antonio to the anglers who are likely to fish it. There are other similar examples in the Draft, but this one is sufficient to illustrate our concerns.
A second area where the plan can be strengthened, in our opinion, is to increase the opportunities for angling for trophy trout; as for example is presently the case on the San Juan Quality Water below Navajo Dam. The tailwaters below El Vado and Abiquiu Dams on the Rio Chama are obvious candidates for catch-and-release designation. These designations are consistent with the DG&F objectives and strategies stated on p. 10 of the draft and reflect the preferences of the majority of anglers surveyed by the department. Specifically,
Strategy 2.1: “Collaborate with … [stakeholders] to establish broadly-supported resource-based management objectives”.
Strategy 4.1 “Monitor angler issues, interests, and satisfaction and employ findings to inform and evaluate management decisions.”
Strategy 4.5: “Continue to promulgate rules that protect fish stocks from overexploitation and equitably distribute fishing opportunity.”
Having additional trophy trout angling opportunities that would be facilitated by catch-and release regulations would be a huge attraction for local and out-of-state anglers. We strongly recommend implementing catch-and-release regulations on the Rio Chama below El Vado and Abiquiu dams.
A third area where the plan could be improved is in area of habitat restoration and remediation. Department of Game and Fish resources are limited and habitat restoration needs are large. The Department could leverage those resources by making a greater effort to use volunteers from angling and conservation organizations in its habitat restoration activities. The plan would benefit by making volunteer participation a specific objective.
In conclusion, New Mexico Trout thanks you and your team for this new fisheries management plan. We hope you give serious considerations to our suggestions and we look forward to helping you implement that plan in any way we can.
Ronald E. Loehman
New Mexico Trout PO Box 3276 Albuquerque, NM 8790-3276