State helps tribal effort to restore threatened trout in Nevada
RENO — State wildlife officials are taking “baby steps” on the edge of the Sierra to see if the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout can be reintroduced successfully to its native waters without harming the trophy fish that now inhabit the popular Truckee River.
Historically reluctant to risk jeopardizing fish such as rainbow and brown trout, the Nevada Division of Wildlife joined the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe on Wednesday in stocking about 300 adult cutthroats into the river that runs through downtown Reno.
It’s the first step in a five-year experiment that will see 2,200 spawning-age cutthroats stocked this year at four locations near Reno — some up to 2 feet long and weighing 5 pounds.
A century ago, cutthroats migrated nearly 100 miles up and down the river on the Sierra’s eastern front, from the high desert Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno to the mountain waters of Lake Tahoe to the southwest.
“The hope is that it someday will happen again,” said Albert John, acting director of the tribe’s Pyramid Lake Fishery.
“I think it’s a possibility if everyone works together — the tribe, the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said as nets full of green spotted fish with red streaks on their sides were dumped into the 40-degree water.
The tribe, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been urging reintroduction of the threatened fish despite concerns by local fly fishing groups that the cutthroats will compete with rainbows and browns. Fishermen prize the two species for their fighting ability.
“This is the new reality for us,” said Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Division of Wildlife.
“We think we can maintain the sport fishery we have with rainbows and brown trout that are so very popular with anglers and at the same time assist the tribe in figuring out if it is possible to re-establish the run of the cutthroat,” he said.
Healy said the Truckee River is the most-fished river in Nevada and the third most-fished body of water in the state behind Lake Mead and Lake Mohave.
“First we need to see if these fish can do what their ancestors used to do years ago, which is run up and down the Truckee River,” he said.
“So we are going to take some baby steps. And we think this is a pretty solid first step we can take and still protect the other fish.”
Lahontan cutthroat trout were once the dominant fish in Nevada. But about a century ago the population began a rapid decline, brought on by pollution, dams, over fishing and the introduction of nonnative fish.
Native cutthroats disappeared from Pyramid Lake in the 1940s, shortly after they vanished from Lake Tahoe, which feeds the Truckee River.
The species was listed as endangered in 1970 and reclassified as threatened five years later.
On the Net:
Wildlife Division: http://ndow.org/
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe: http://plpt.nsn.us/