Trout die-off in Wyoming bodes ill for famous fishery

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 9:33 PM
Trout die-off in Wyoming bodes ill for famous fishery

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A massive fish die-off at a federal hatchery will slash stocking of a prized trout in a world-renowned fishing destination that runs between Idaho and Wyoming, officials said on Wednesday.

The South Fork Snake River region draws thousands of anglers each year for its trout fishing, an activity that locally generates about $41 million a year.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is among the affluent fly-fishing enthusiasts who frequent the stream.

About 150,000 Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout suffocated this month when a power outage at the Jackson National Fish Hatchery in Wyoming cut the supply of fresh, oxygen-rich water pumped into their concrete tanks.

The loss of nearly 40 percent of the 400,000 native fish released each year by the hatchery into waterways means fewer cutthroat for the three years it will take to rebuild the stock of trout, officials said.

The vast majority of the fish are stocked in Palisades Reservoir in Idaho, where many swim through the dam to downstream reaches of the South Fork Snake River, which flows through northwestern Wyoming and southeastern Idaho.

The fish die-off comes at a key time for communities and businesses that in the summer rely on the South Fork Snake River to flood the region with tourists and anglers lured by pristine waters brimming with trophy trout.

In a corridor lined with cottonwood trees, the river winds through forested mountains before dropping into sheer canyon lands carved through volcanic rock.

The depleted supply of the cherished trout may lower sales of fishing licenses in the two states.

"Everybody feels bad, but there's not a whole lot you can do about it," said Kerry Grande, manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery near Jackson, Wyoming, where the trout die-off happened.

The die-off was a tough break for a hatchery established to make up for losses in fish habitat and reproduction with the building of the Palisades Reservoir, said Jaason Pruett, head fishing guide for The Lodge at Palisades Creek in Idaho.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune)