the Rodeo-Chediski Fire Affect the Fish Community
in the Salt River?
In June-July 2002 the Rodeo-Chediski fire burned 467,000 acres of the White
Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest,
and Tonto National Forest; the largest fire in Arizona history. Over
290,000 acres burned in the Salt River Basin. Rains after the fire
washed sediment, ash, and fire-related compounds into streams and rivers.
A few dead fish were noted in Tonto Creek, the Salt River, and several
streams on the White Mountain Apache Reservation during the first runoff
in July 2002.
Historically, native fish like Sonora and desert suckers were abundant
in the river, but following introduction of flathead catfish in 1974, native
fish declined in abundance. Since the mid 1990s Arizona Game and Fish Department
had been considering reintroducing the native suckers but were not sure
how successful their efforts would be because of the abundance of the highly
predatory flathead catfish. Arizona Game and Fish Department was interested
in knowing if the post-fire runoff suppressed flathead and other nonnative
fish populations in the Salt River above Roosevelt Lake. If a die-off had
occurred, then the time might be opportune for reintroduction of native
fishes. Arizona Game and Fish Department Research Branch initiated a study
in early 2003 to assess the post-fire fish community in the Salt River.
Salt River above Theodore Roosevelt Lake.
We conducted three sampling trips down the Salt River in winter and
spring of 2003. Fishes
were sampled using a boat-mounted electroshocker,
seines, gillnets, and trot-lines. All fish collected were identified to
species, and length and weight were recorded. Data collected will be compared
to historic data to determine changes in population abundance and distribution
of non-native species. Water chemistry data was obtained from Arizona Department
of Environmental Quality and U.S. Geological Service Water Resources Division
to identify any changes in water quality characteristics.
Fieldwork is complete and a final report will be completed by June 30,
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and Federal agencies such as U.S.
Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and U. S. Bureau of Reclamation
benefit from this research by gaining a greater understanding of the effects
of fire on fish assemblages. If it is determined that nonnative predatory
fishes have been suppressed, the Department has the opportunity to attempt
to reestablish (via translocation from Phoenix area canals) one or multiple
native fish species in the river. These populations could potentially reproduce
and recruit within the Salt River.
For more information contact:
Anthony Robinson, Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Highway Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000
Phone: (602)-789-3376 E-mail: email@example.com