NM: San Juan habitat work opens more trophy trout fishing

NAVAJO DAM – The world-class, trophy trout waters of the San
Juan River became hotter than ever this month as crews completed a
$300,000 project to enhance fish habitat and control sediment.

After a month of construction in a section of the river called
“The Braids,” anglers returned to find deeper channels, new holes
and more fish in the famous stretch of river below Navajo Dam.

“Hundreds of shallow little channels going different directions
have been consolidated so most of the water flows into three
distinct braids,” said Marc Wethington, the San Juan River
fisheries biologist for the Department of Game and Fish. “We’ve
increased water depth, established more pools and increased the
flow. Fish are piling in there – and so are the fishermen.”

Spawned by a management plan in 2005, the project came to
fruition this year thanks to an appropriation approved by the state
Legislature. Additional funding was provided by an excise tax on
fishing and boating equipment through the federal Sport Fish
Restoration Program.

“Improving our state’s best trout water benefits everyone,” said
Jim McClintic, chairman of the State Game Commission. “Better
fishing brings more fishermen, who in turn bring more money to the
region’s economy.”

Wethington said anglers are excited about the project, which has
opened about 3/8 of a mile of good fishing in a stretch where there
were very few trout before.

“A bunch of water that didn’t hold many fish now holds a lot of
fish,” Wethington said. “The first day it opened up, one gentleman
from Trout Unlimited told me that he caught more fish that day than
he has ever caught before – his best day fishing ever.”

Crews with contractors Albuquerque Underground Inc., Aquatic
Consultants Inc., and Riverbend Engineering dug through sandstone
bedrock to create 21 new fishing holes ranging from three to five
feet deep. Large cottonwood trunks, boulders and faux beaver dams
were strategically placed to redirect flows into the pools.

“It made that stretch of river a different place,” Wethington
said. “I could blindfold someone who has been fishing the San Juan
for 25 years, take them to The Braids and remove the blindfold and
they wouldn’t know where they were.”

The project included building a sediment retention area at the
mouth of Rex Smith Wash, an arroyo that empties into the “Kiddie
Hole,” a popular fishing spot just above “Texas Hole.” Flash-flood
events carry silt into the river at that point, damaging trout
habitat there and downstream. The retention pond will slow the
water flow during floods, catch sediment and redirect clean water
back into the river.


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