Lake Tahoe trout relocation goes swimmingly amid low oxygen levels
By the numbers
30: Trout rescued Tuesday
26: Brown trout
4: Rainbow trout
20 inches: Average size of rescued trout
10 pounds: Weight of many of the trout
Source: California Department of Fish and Wildlife
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Onlookers could see the familiar sight of fish below Fanny Bridge briefly coming out of the water Tuesday — but this time, the trout weren’t jumping.
Anglers, many with Trout Unlimited, were catching with rod and reel in an effort with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to relocate the stranded fish to a more suitable habitat.
“(The fish) are seriously a landmark of Tahoe City,” said David Lass, Trout Unlimited California field director. “People care enough about them … to do something about it, which is really nice to see.”
Due to the drought, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had been monitoring the situation at Fanny Bridge, with recent readings revealing low dissolved oxygen levels in the stagnant water, said Kirsten Macintyre, communications director for CDFW.
“Nobody wants to see them die here under these circumstances, so if we have the ability to help, we’d like to,” she said Tuesday morning before the relocation effort got under way.
Thirty trout were caught — 26 brown and four rainbow — and released into Lake Tahoe at the marina behind Obexer’s General Store in Homewood, where trout are known to thrive, Macintyre said.
“I think it’s great,” said Tahoe Donner resident Paul Purchard, one of many onlookers from Fanny Bridge during the rescue. “It’s nice to try to save them and move them into the lake. (It’s) a rare opportunity.”
Initial CDFW counts estimated between 20 and 36 fish were in the isolated water near the Tahoe City dam.
“We were satisfied with the number of fish we relocated (Tuesday),” Macintyre said. “… We do know that there are more fish still under the bridge, but the dissolved oxygen is less of a concern with 30 fewer fish in the pool.”
Fish and Wildlife officials will continue to monitor oxygen levels and may attempt to rescue more fish if needed, she said. As of Wednesday, there are no immediate plans to do so.
“I think it’s fair to say that everything went swimmingly,” Macintyre said.
Lake Tahoe hit its natural rim in October 2014 after three consecutive mild winters, thereby halting water flow into the Truckee River.
This fourth and latest winter also proved to be dry, leaving 66.6 percent of California in “extreme drought” and 46.77 percent in “exceptional drought” as of this week — with the latter including the Truckee/Tahoe region, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“We anticipate there’ll be continued need for rescues throughout this season with the drought year and the low snowpack,” said Mitch Lockhart, an environmental scientist for CDFW.
Tuesday marked the first time CDFW did a fish relocation effort at Fanny Bridge.
Visit wildlife.ca.gov to learn more about fish and wildlife in California. Visit tu.org to learn more about Trout Unlimited.