Trout return to Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery

The wait is finally over.

That’s the word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in regards to trout plants from the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery about 12 miles below Hoover Dam.

In November 2013, Southern Nevada’s fishing community was stunned to learn the Willow Beach Hatchery had lost its aging cold-water intake system and with it thousands of rainbow trout. Many of those fish were destined for release in the Colorado River’s frigid waters at Willow Beach just south of the hatchery, a popular destination for trout fishermen and striped bass enthusiasts.

It is no secret that some anglers fished Willow Beach specifically to catch stocked rainbows, and others fished for the large striped bass that prowled those waters in search of the same trout. Without that cold-water intake, however, there would be no more trout. Not until the intake was repaired or replaced.

For the next three years, the hatchery remained troutless. Then in October 2016, the FWS announced the hatchery was back in the trout production business. With a new, floating cold-water intake and conveyance system in place, the cold water needed for growing trout was again flowing through the hatchery’s raceways. And in those same raceways were about 60,000 small rainbow trout, compliments of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Those trout arrived in late summer after the new system passed muster, but the fish were too small to release right away. That meant excited anglers would have to wait awhile longer.

Today, however, that is no longer the case. The wait is over.

FWS spokesperson Craig Springer said the hatchery will officially resume its trout stocking program Thursday with the release of 2,500 catchable-sized rainbows into the cold waters below Davis Dam near Laughlin.

“The trout measure up to 12 inches long. Davis Camp and Bullhead City Park will be stocked once more in January, three times in February, four times in March and once in April for a total of 25,000 rainbow trout,” he said.

That’s enough fish to keep some busy for a while, but what about those eager to fish the frigid waters at Willow Beach?

“The Willow Beach area immediately downstream of the hatchery will also be stocked with 1,000 rainbow trout every Friday starting Feb. 3. This weekly stocking schedule will continue the year round,” Springer said.

Though the trout being stocked during the early months of 2017 were secured in partnership with the AZGFD, the Willow Beach Hatchery is again raising fish from eggs as well.

“More than 110,000 rainbow trout eggs arrived from Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana, in December 2016,” Springer said. “Those eggs have since hatched and quickly transformed into young trout to be stocked later this year.”

Looks as if it’s time to break out that tackle box and dust off your trout gear. And Nevada anglers need to be sure you have a trout stamp along with a Colorado River Special Use Stamp so you can fish the Arizona shoreline or from a boat.

Surely this will lead to more than a few fish stories.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.