Monday, April 10, 2017
By Glen Rosales - Courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal
Marc Wethington grew on the San Juan River near the Four Corners area.
So it’s not too surprising that his life’s work has been dedicated to maintaining the river below the Navajo dam as one of the leading fisheries in the world.
For his efforts over the course of a 21-year career as a fisheries biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Wethington recently received the Fish Head of the Year Award honoring lifetime achievement from the American Fisheries Society.
“It was greatly appreciated to get the award and to get the pat on the back. It’s been consuming to me for many years,” he said of his work. “I think it’s also good for the department. A lot of folks that work really hard in our agency that are deserving also, and without their help and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this.”
The world-renowned fishery that covers a stretch of the river about four miles from below the dam, boasts an estimated 70,000 trout averaging 16 to 18 inches in length. It is widely regarded among anglers as one of the West’s top trout streams.
And it’s something Wethington, 53, of Kirtland, has been passionate about since his youth.
“As a child, a teenager, the bulk of our family trips and vacations were about camping, fishing that type of stuff,” he said. “That outdoor sort of stuff I have been doing my entire life.”
Wethington earned an undergrad degree in environmental science from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., then got into the life sciences graduate program focusing on aquatic entomology.
“And I started doing contract work on the San Juan on native fish, and aquatic invertebrate (insects) just blow dam in the special trout fishery and that’s really where I really got interested in fisheries,” he said.
While a lot of the work is relatively mundane – collecting and analyzing data culled from surveys with the anglers who use the area – Wethington has also made a point of hands-on work in the field.
“The last probably 10-12 years I’ve really been pushing habitat work in and along the channel to improve the fishery,” he said, adding downstream water development has led to the drop in water levels.
“Since we have less water, we had to manage it better,” Wethington said. “Excavating pools, narrowing the channel to increase depth and velocity, that helps with depth and transport sediment to keep the bottom clean.”
Keeping the San Juan River fishery a viable and attract spot for both fish and the fishermen is critical, he said.
“People in New Mexico don’t realize the significance as far as sport fishing, how important this is as a destination fishery,” he said. “In the special trout waters, about 250,000 to 300,000 hours a year people spend fishing it and that means $35-$40 million year a year from the fishery as far as the economy.”
Read more about improvements to the San Juan at:
Matt Pelletier of New Mexico Muskie's Inc at Quemado Lake, Fall 2010.Photo courtesy of Pelletier. By Karl Moffatt It’s New Mexico’s...
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Conservation Officer, Travis Nygren, shows off one of the giant tiger muskies found at Blue...
Wild hogs are invading New Mexico and are threatening to destroy the environment, spread disease and run off wildlife, according to authorit...
Steve Chase, 28, of Laguna, NM shows off a fat salmon he snagged at Navajo Lake last year. Salmon snagging season has begun across much ...
By Wren Propp Finding Otter The snow was deep and unstable on the road into Lower Lagunitas Campground as Ian Crombie...
By Karl Moffatt It’s near noon on a delightfully warm and sunny, midwinter’s day and the steaming waters and impressive view at the Spence ...
When the summer heat comes down on Santa Fe, there’s a great little spot this side of the Pecos where one can fish, picnic and play in the...
Photo Courtesy of Diane Gilmore It wasn’t the kind of story you might expect to hear upon walking into a biker bar like Silva’s in downto...
A native of New Mexico, the Gila trout can be found in clear running streams deep within the Gila National Forest. Photo courtesy of Jerry ...
Tim Davidson, 57, of Shiprock shows off a nice rainbow trout he caught at Acomita Lake this spring. It’s a Saturday morning and the sound...