DWR Aquatics Manager Discusses Seeley Fire Effects on Fishing

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Justin Hart, Regional Aquatics Program Manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, explained how the Seeley Fire and subsequent mud slides have affected fishing in Huntington Creek.

“One of the worst things that can happen right after a fire are real heavy rains. That ash, when it gets in the water, is really tough on fish, it clogs their gills,” he said. “We’ve found some fish where their gills were just packed with it and they can’t breathe.”

“The flash flooding we had a couple weekends ago right after the fire and during it, from basically South Hughes Canyon all of the way down had a significant amount of sludge, ash, sediment, logs, and rocks that got flushed down the river. We lost a significant portion of the fish,” Hart continued. В “I think a lot of the main stem from south Hughes down, probably the majority of the fish died. We don’t know for sure though. We have plans to go out there and do some checking. It’s likely we lost quite a few of them.”

Forest Service officials haveВ approximatelyВ a mile up from South Hughes Canyon open to the dam because fish in that region have yet to see adverse effects of the fire. Hart also added that “a majority of the left fork is OK.” Though some of left fork was in an burned area, high intensity rain showers have not hit the area thus far, suggesting fish in that stretch of the creek are unharmed. Hart concluded by saying that the other half of left fork is not in the fire zone at all.

Forest Service officials have closed all campgrounds and trail access in the burn zone and have limited access on Highway 31 in Huntington Canyon to through-traffic only. In a press release from last week, Manti-La Sal National Forest officials directed questions regarding which areas are open to their website at www.fs.usda.gov/mantilasal.

“I think the forest service office is going to be a really good resource or people,” Hart said. “It’s their land. They’re the ones that are administering whether places are accessed or not. I gave a broad idea of what I’ve heard from them, but they’ll be the best resource as far as what areas can be accessed and what areas cannot.”

So, what are the plans for the affected areas of Huntington Creek?

“Obviously we’re going to restock the fishery, and we could soon, but we need to wait until probably next spring’s run-off,” Hart said. “We could stock it this summer but we run the risk of some more heavy rain storms and more debris coming down and killing everything. We’re going to watch it this fall and closely during the run-off this next spring and then hopefully we can get it stocked back up after that. But there are some portions that are still fishable.”

Hart did not directly comment on other fisheries within the burned area but said, “if you can’t get in there you obviously can’t fish,” referring to through-traffic onlyВ restrictionsВ in the canyon.

Additional questions regarding fishing in Huntington Creek can be answered by calling 435-613-3723.

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