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Earth Notes: Roundtail Chub Thrives In AZ

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Roundtail Chub populations have declined to the point where the fish is being considered as a candidate for the Federal Endangered Species Act. But their numbers are just fine in central Arizona. In fact, the Roundtail Chub is thriving on the Salt and Verde Rivers.

It started out as a normal February's day fishing for Rudolph Hoffman at a large pool on the Verde River above Clarkdale. Until he reeled in a 17-inch Roundtail Chub, then another, then another. After cranking in several more sizeable fish, Hoffman landed a 19-inch specimen, setting a new state catch-and-release record for the species. 

These native fish with the scientific name Gila robusta have lived in perennial streams and rivers in the Colorado River basin for many millennia. They thrive in pools, eddies and swift swirling water below rapids.

But as southwestern rivers have been altered through the building of dams, water diversions, and many ecological changes, the Roundtail Chub has declined enough to be considered a candidate for the Federal Endangered Species Act.

In central Arizona, though, they're doing pretty well. Several high-flow years, including a number of flood events in 2008, have improved the survival rates of the young chub on the Sale and Verde Rivers.

Populations have also been boosted by a breeding program run by the Arizona Game and Fish Department at its Bubbling Ponds Hatchery near Cornville, and by the restoration of native fish populations in Fossil Creek.

An important component, too, is the catch-and-release rule in effect on the Verde River from Granite Creek all the way downstream to Horseshoe Dam.

If you can't keep Roundtail Chub, why bother catching them at all? Adult chubs are feisty and put up quite a fight on the line - a challenge that many anglers love.

Diane Hope, Ph.D., is a former ecologist and environmental scientist turned audio producer, sound recordist and writer. Originally from northern England, she has spent much of the last 25 years in Arizona and has been contributing scripts to Earth Notes for 15 years.
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