illustrations of the eight Grand Canyon native fish.
Fish native to Grand Canyon, from left to right: humpback chub, razorback sucker, bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker, speckled dace, and the three extirpated species: Colorado pikeminnow, roundtail chub and bonytail.

Illustrations by Joe Tomelleri

Arizona Game and Fish logo shows a quail against a green circle with yellow letters that read, Arizona Game and Fish.
For information on fishing licenses, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website.

Review Grand Canyon National Park's
Comprehensive Fisheries Management Plan

An Environmental Assessment (EA) was released to the public in June, 2013, for a 30-day review and comment period. Over fifty comments were received, with most in support of Alternative 2, the preferred alternative. Learn more >>

Colorado River through Grand Canyon

NPS photo by Kristen M. Caldon

The Colorado River running through Grand Canyon once hosted one of the most distinctive fish assemblages in North America. The wild Colorado River presented fish with a challenging and variable aquatic habitat: very large spring floods, near-freezing winter temperatures, warm summer temperatures, and a heavy silt load.

As a result, only eight fish species were native to Grand Canyon. Of the eight species, six are endemic, meaning that they are only found in the Colorado River basin.

Many of these Colorado River specialists share distinctive physical characteristics-large adult size, small eyes and skulls, thick leathery skin, and a distinctive hump or keel behind the head.
Based on anecdotal reports from early researchers, it is likely that native fish populations in Grand Canyon began to decline as early as the 1890s. Today, only five of Grand Canyon's native fish are still found in the park. The humpback chub, a large and unusual-looking member of the minnow family specifically adapted to the deep swift reaches of the Colorado River, is listed as an endangered species. Razorback suckers, also listed as endangered, are very rare within the park.
Aerial view of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, US Bureau of Reclamation.
Aerial view of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell
Native fish in Grand Canyon face a myriad of threats today, including non-native fish and the alteration of their river habitat by Glen Canyon Dam. National Park Service Management Policies require that native species and natural ecosystems are preserved, and that recovery actions are taken when park resources have been damaged or compromised.

Furthermore, a variety of laws, including the Endangered Species Act, require the protection of threatened and rare species.
Late in the afternoon. Two biologists are sitting in the foreground taking a water sample. Behind them is the blue-green water of Havasu Creek. In the background canyon cliffs are partially in shade and partially in sunlight.
Fisheries biologists at work during the translocation.

The National Park Service and its cooperators have initiated a multi-faceted program to restore native fish in Grand Canyon.

This program includes translocating humpback chub to Shinumo and Havasu Creeks, which are Grand Canyon tributaries that provide suitable habitat for the species.

Park biologists are removing non-native trout in Bright Angel Creek and Shinumo Creek in an effort to restore native fish and habitat to these larger perennial tributaries.

Grand Canyon's native fish are an integral and unique part of the canyon's natural ecosystems. Robust populations of native fish are important indicators of an aquatic system's overall health.

Restoring native fish to the extent possible in the Colorado River and its tributaries in Grand Canyon is essential to maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of Grand Canyon National Park.
Front cover of the Comprehensive Fisheries Management Plan shows a view looking the blue-green water of Havasu Creek. An insert photo shows human hands holding a humpback chub.
Comprehensive Fisheries Management Plan

Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, propose to develop and implement a coordinated plan for fisheries management in the face of threats related to non-native species, habitat alteration, and other potential environmental impacts.

The plan will provide an adaptive management framework for fisheries management decisions in all waters between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead, including tributaries, over the coming decades.

An Environmental Assessment (EA) was released to the public in June, 2013, for a 30-day review and comment period. Over fifty comments were received, with most in support of Alternative 2, the preferred alternative.

Last updated: November 17, 2015

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PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023


(928) 638-7888

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