SPARKS — Nevada Department of Wildlife officials still have hope this spring of restocking trout in the Sparks Marina where an estimated 100,000 fish were killed due to a sudden drop in oxygen levels.
Officials say if the levels of dissolved oxygen continue to improve at the current rate, they could restock the urban lake next month.
The latest samples the city took at seven locations on Feb. 27 showed healthy oxygen levels ranging from depths of 2 feet to 50 feet.
Sparks City engineer John Martini said the results suggest that the 77-acre, man-made lake along U.S. Interstate 80 likely can again support the fish that made it such a popular fishing spot before the December die-off apparently spurred by unusually cold weather.
“It’s a good sign,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It looks like things are coming back and will be fine.”
NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said they could begin restocking about 26,000 rainbow trout as soon as the first week of April.
“We were really happy with the tests,” Healy said. “Essentially (oxygen) was zero way back in December and January. Now we’re up to some very good levels.”
The 100,000 trout, catfish and bass died in mid-December in an event scientists believed was linked to near zero-degree temperatures that descended on the Reno-Sparks area. Bone-chilling temperatures likely caused oxygen-rich waters on the surface to quickly cool and sink to the bottom in what is known as a “violent turnover,” experts said. Algae growth in the one-time gravel pit during a hot summer may have contributed to the problem by further robbing oxygen.
Dead fish were first noticed in mid-December.
The full scope of the problem was not released for weeks until tests indicated lethally low levels of dissolved oxygen and scans by an electronic fish-finder revealed no fish swimming in the lake’s depths. It is believed many of the dead fish sank to the lake’s bottom.
It will take time to restore a fishery that was totally wiped out, Healy said. The 26,000 rainbows allocated to Sparks Marina will likely be mostly stocked by Memorial Day, with the potential to stock more later, he said. It’s unknown when more warm-water fish — catfish and bass — may be put in the lake.
“This is a really big lake. The catch rates won’t be what they used to be” for some time, Healy said.