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Lee Valley Reservoir to be Drained

PINETOP, Ariz. – Arizona Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists plan to drain Lee Valley Reservoir early this fall to remove unwanted rainbow and brook trout.

Located at more than 9,000 feet elevation in the Little Colorado River Basin, Lee Valley has been managed by the department as an Arctic grayling and Apache trout fishery for nearly a decade.

“ We intend to maintain the current management plan of the lake after it refills in the spring, only without the lingering rainbow and brook trout,” says Mike Lopez, a fisheries manager in the department’s Pinetop regional office. “They have a direct, negative impact on the quality of the Apache trout fishery, both in the lake and in adjoining streams.”

The lake will be drained this fall beginning in mid- to late September and will be allowed to refill next spring with runoff from the snow pack. It will be restocked with catchable-sized Apache trout in May 2004. Grayling will be stocked at the department’s earliest opportunity (grayling stocks can be difficult to acquire).

September was selected as the start date to avoid impacting summer visitors and to reduce angler impacts. It was also selected to allow downstream water users to take advantage of capturing the water in the Greer lakes systems, which are used for irrigation.

Lopez acknowledges there will be a short-term loss of angler opportunity at Lee Valley from late September through November (the lake is inaccessible during the winter) but he believes fishing conditions will be improved when the department restocks the lake next spring.

Low water levels due to the multi-year drought, combined with a nearly complete winterkill of the grayling this past spring have made fishing conditions difficult for anglers.

“ Lee Valley Reservoir is a popular fly-fishing lake, but fishing there has been slow this year,” adds Lopez. “Current circumstances have given us the perfect opportunity to change the kinds of fish there by draining the lake, something we have needed to do for quite some time.”




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