Trout pile-up at Martis
Approximately 1,000 rainbow, brown and Lahontan cutthroat trout are dead or stranded at Martis Lake Flats near Highway 267 after Martis Reservoir was drawn down following the January floods.The reservoir, which is used to catch flood waters, was filled during the recent flooding. On January 15, the dam gates were opened to release water at 350 cubic feet per second and the lake rapidly fell to its current level.Since then, black bears, coyotes and bald eagles have been feeding on the fish, which are stranded in pools left by receding waters.Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Doug Grothe said Martis Lake attracts over 100,000 user hours annually. A majority of these visitors are flyfishers, many of whom travel from around the country for the unique catch-and-release fishing there.Local merchants and lodging representatives expressed concern over the economic impact the fish kill may have on Truckee.”Flyfishing has become an important component of our business. The catch-and-release regulations on the Truckee River and Martis Lake have created a magnet for anglers looking for a quality flyfishing experience,” said Greg Havorka, the owner of Mountain hardware and Sports.The January floods followed by the kill may not affect the fishing, but the perception of devastation may influence out-of-town anglers to travel elsewhere.Martis Creek Reservoir was constructed in the mid-60s for flood control by the Army Corps of Engineers. During the New Year’s floods, Martis trapped runoff and released it at a controlled rate of 55 cubic feet per second.The Martis Reservoir was credited for preventing downstream flooding from being worse than it actually was. Water filling the reservoir crossed under Highway 267 and rose to the edge of the Northstar golf course.The fish kill was discovered by Donner Summit resident Bruce McDowell, who hiked into the flats to investigate the large numbers of birds feeding on the trout carcasses.By the time the Martis stranding was reported to the California Department of Fish and Game and the Army Corps, most of the estimated 1,000 trout had died.A field investigation by the Army on Tuesday afternoon revealed a pool containing approximately 50 surviving trout ranging from 14 to 28 inches long. Included in this group were several Lahontan cutthroat trout, a federally threatened species.Less than 24 hours after the investigation, a group of volunteers from the community, the U.S. Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Nevada Division arrived at Martis Creek to free the surviving trout.
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In the early 1900s, few people would have accused the Southern Pacific Corporation of acting in the public interest, much less of working to preserve the natural environment. The much more popular view was that…