Getting paid to go fishing in the Grand Canyon may sound like a pipe dream, but if you’ve got a valid Arizona fishing license, it could be your reality.
The National Park Service recently approved a plan to pay Arizona fishers to catch and remove brown trout from the Lees Ferry area of the Grand Canyon.
Brown trout and other invasive fish species feed on other fish, including the Canyon’s endangered native fish species, the humpback chub.
Brown trout are the largest and hungriest of these invasive species, making them an out-sized threat to the endangered chub. Rob Billerbeck, Colorado River coordinator in the park service’s regional resource stewardship and science office, told the Arizona Republic that just one brown trout consumes up to 17 times more humpback chub than a rainbow trout.
The new approach was spurred on by a fear that the brown trout would soon devastate the river’s chub population.
Park officials have tried to control the brown trout population before, using a technique known as electrofishing, which involves using an electric charge to stun the fish.
The approach was criticized by fishing groups and area tribes, especially the Zuni tribe, who said removing the fish by electroshock was against their beliefs. “The taking of life by mechanical means is not a good thing,” Zuni Tribal Councilman Eric Bobelu told the Republic. But the tribe agreed that removing the trout by fishing for them was something they could support.
Under the new plan, the Park Service will also offer guided fishing trips to tribal youth from the 11 tribes with cultural and historic ties to the Grand Canyon, including the Zuni. Those trips will include the paid incentives to catch brown trout.
The Park Service collaborated with tribal, federal, and state governments, scientists, environmentalists, and fishing groups as they developed the program.
“It’s a creative idea,” Kevin Dahl, Arizona senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the Arizona Republic. “I think the idea of rewards to fisherfolk seems reasonable.”
Billerbeck also expressed his support for the idea, saying “It’s a great day when you can get paid to fish, and we are excited about involving the public in removing non-natives to protect our parks.”
The Park Service is still working out the details on how much they’ll pay fishers and how they’ll make those payments, but the hope is that paying them to remove the trout will help protect the area’s endangered fish.