Game & Fish rescue some Gila trout from potential devastation

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Arizona Game and Fish Department employees saved Gila Trout from two streams on Mount Graham. (Source: Game and Fish Department) Arizona Game and Fish Department employees saved Gila Trout from two streams on Mount Graham. (Source: Game and Fish Department)
To execute their mission, they had to suit up in full wild land firefighter gear for their safety. (Source: Game and Fish Department) To execute their mission, they had to suit up in full wild land firefighter gear for their safety. (Source: Game and Fish Department)
They were working in an area that has been scorched by the Frye Fire, that same fire was the reason for the rescue. (Source: Game and Fish Department) They were working in an area that has been scorched by the Frye Fire, that same fire was the reason for the rescue. (Source: Game and Fish Department)
The electrofishing stuns the fish just enough so the biologists can net them quickly and safely to transfer them. (Source: Game and Fish Department) The electrofishing stuns the fish just enough so the biologists can net them quickly and safely to transfer them. (Source: Game and Fish Department)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A pretty intense and unusual rescue was pulled off by wildlife specialists in southeastern Arizona last week.

"Our goal was to salvage Gila trout from two streams on Mount Graham, Frye and Ash creeks, prior to any ash flows by the monsoon rain storms," said Tracy Stephens, native trout and chub coordinator at Arizona Game and Fish Department.

To execute their mission, Stephens and her team from Game and Fish and Mora National Fish Hatchery had to suit up in full wildland firefighter gear for their safety.

They were working in an area that has been scorched by the Frye Fire, that same fire was the reason for the rescue.

"We hiked down probably a little over a mile and a half to the section of stream where the trout occur," Stephens said.

Once in the streams, they used a technique called backpack electrofishing.

"We kind of look like ghost busters truthfully with that," Stephens joked.

The electrofishing stuns the fish just enough so the biologists can net them quickly and safely to transfer them.

In this case, they put the trout in 5-gallon buckets of water with aerators and then had to hike back out with the buckets on their backs.

"Carrying the buckets with fish, we probably were carrying around 40 to 50 pounds," she said. "And then we had additional folks on the crew carrying the backpack electrofishing units and then all of our sampling gear, waders, water, food so it was quite a bit of gear."

If you're thinking this seems like a lot of hard work and effort, you're right. But Stephens says it's not only worth it but necessary to ensure the fish in those two streams didn't get wiped out.

Gila trout are just one of two native trout species to Arizona and they're listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

"Although the hiking was hard, we were very successful in our efforts," she said.

Between the two streams, they were able to save 190 Gila trout. The fish are now at Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico.

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