8: Native Trout of Mexico: Treasures of the Sierra Madre
Dean A. Hendrickson and Joseph R. Tomelleri
American theatergoers are familiar with director John Huston’s classic movie of 1948, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, based on a novel written by B. Traven and starring Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs. At least north of the border, Traven’s tale of loco gringos prospecting for gold made Mexico’s rugged mountains famous, and many cinephiles still recognize the famous quote by Gold Hat, the bandito: “Badges! We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” Huston filmed most of his mountain scenes on location in Mexico, and some 50 years later, we found ourselves in the Sierra Madre Occidental (henceforth, SMO) of northwest Mexico with our own saga of prospecting for “gold” beginning to unfold. Always without badges but often stinking after days of back-country camping and hiking, our binational and otherwise diverse cast of academic, government, and nonprofit biologists and fly fishers came to call itself Truchas Mexicanas (Mexican Trout), after the different, but also gilded, treasure we were chasing.
Many members of Truchas Mexicanas, besides being film fans, had, as professional biologists working in the American Southwest’s deserts, long been familiar with the rich biodiversity of the Sierra Madre, and the Sky Island conferences (DeBano et al. 1995; Gottfried et al. 2005, 2013) had started convening botanists, entomologists, mammologists, ornithologists, herpetologists, and the occasional fish biologist, as well as paleo- and modern ecologists and the occasional archaeologists and anthropologists. These conferences were started to celebrate, document, and collaborate to call attention to, and help conserve, the remarkably diverse fauna and flora of the many high-elevation mountains, islands in a sea of desert, of southern Arizona and New Mexico, Sonora and Chihuahua. The work in those volumes helped set our stage, and many active in that group provided valuable pointers. We knew that the fishes of the area had been comparatively less studied than had been those north of the border, especially when it came to trout, and so we set off to focus on them. But thanks to that diverse background info, we did so with our eyes always wide open to all the other biological treasures of the region.