I am always excited to see stream improvement devices when I fish. My success seems to increase greatly near them because it attracts the trout to these structures.
They not only provide cover for trout, but are critical tools for stabilizing banks. Many structures are designed to narrow stream channels to help them be deeper and cooler for trout.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) in cooperation with Natural Channel Design and the United States Forest Service (USFS) have completed stream improvement work within the stream channel at Second and Third Crossing on the East Verde River.
In addition, the project included work at Flowing Springs to re-mediate for bank erosion and provide safer access to the creek in high use areas, but stream channel improvement was not done at that site.
There is also a plan for stream improvements within the channel at Washington Park on the Upper East Verde.
AZGFD has spearheaded similar projects in our area to benefit fish and fishermen over the years. This has included structures in Canyon, Haigler and Tonto creeks. They have also done extensive bank repair on Christopher Creek and Haigler Creek to help with safe entry to the creeks.
This stream improvement work is fantastic news for those of us who love to fish the East Verde River. Even though the East Verde hasn’t been stocked since last September, the crew doing this project noted that fish had already moved into the waters improved by these devices within hours of the work being completed.
This project required a great deal of planning and design, permits, and the acquisition of funds by AZGFD and Tonto National Forest to complete the work to improve fish habitat and fishing.
Some of these funds included contributions of close to $10,000 toward this work by the Gila Trout Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Payson Flycasters Club (GTTU/PFC). Desert Flycasters Club in the Valley also contributed funds to AZGFD to help with the completion of the project.
The work at Third Crossing is located near the parking area and is easily accessible to anglers. The footprint for the old crossing and the placement of the Payson water pipeline has been greatly enhanced by the construction of a deep pool with several boulders to maintain the integrity of the pool and provide cover for trout.
As you move further downstream, those who fish the creek regularly will notice the addition of three large boulders in the center of the pool directly in front of the parking lot.
That seems like a minimal stream improvement, but is actually a feature that trout love! While I was walking the stream to take in all the work, a trout surfaced right next to this three-boulder improvement.
There is another great pool right below these boulders that remains deep and attractive for trout. These locations will benefit from the planting of willow saplings that GTTU/PFC members will work on with AZGFD in the next few weeks.
Willow saplings will grow quickly and further stabilize the stream improvement work and the banks around the project to help reduce the impact of high flows on the river channel. The mature willows will produce additional shade and cover for the trout.
Further downstream, just above the Second Crossing Bridge, timber has been used extensively in this section of the creek. Tree cutting of any type is currently restricted in the national forests because of a lawsuit making its way through the courts regarding protection for Mexican spotted owls. For this reason, they transported the timber used at Second Crossing from the recently purchased AZGFD property at Cold Springs that flows into Ellison Creek.
The timber log barbs at the Second Crossing sites serve two purposes. They are anchored into the bank and angled upstream. This provides cover for trout while protecting the bank they are embedded in from further erosion.
Besides these log barbs, there are also several pools that have been formed or improved because of this project.
At the upstream end of the Second Crossing phase of the project, they have restricted a very large pool at the tail of the pool to return the stream to a narrow configuration that runs deeper and faster to benefit trout. There are two sets of rock barbs that accomplish this.
The first is the obvious rock barb at the tail of the pool, but importantly there is another rock barb about 150 feet downstream that is in the dry creekbed. This second rock barb encourages the stream, when it overflows, to stay within the desired streambed and not to broaden, become shallow, and unsuitable for trout.
The work is well-timed as AZGFD has high hopes for the stocking of Gila trout on the East Verde River this spring and summer.
Gila trout is one of two threatened trout found in Arizona. Their historic range included many of the streams in Rim Country. Gila trout are currently being raised at Canyon Creek Hatchery with the plan of not only aiding in recovery of this valuable fish, but also to produce enough fish that we can stock them in streams for anglers to enjoy catching.
Gilas respond to cover, so these improvements will enhance their success in the river. The advantage of Gilas is that unlike rainbows that must be stocked as non-reproducing triploids, any Gilas that are not caught and kept by anglers might serve as the beginning of a reproducing population for us to enjoy catching well into the future on the East Verde River.
Thank you AZGFD, Natural Channel Design and USFS for your efforts to improve fish habitat and fishing on the East Verde River.