30,000 Lahontan cutthroat trout released in rehab effort
The last release this season of approximately 30,000 Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) into the Truckee River happened on June 26 near the rapids at River Ranch.
The reintroduction of the native trout is unique in that it gives fishermen the opportunity to not only catch, but “hook and cook” the tasty fish, which was listed as endangered more than 30 years ago.
The releases are part of a program being supervised by the California Department of Fish and Game and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, who hope the species will ultimately re-establish itself.
But this batch will serve as much as guinea pigs as pioneers for the rare and threatened species.
The thousands of fish released will provide unique recreational opportunities and allow officials to evaluate how they are adapting to their once native habitat.
“In a nutshell, [we are doing it for] recreation and research,” said Lisa Heki, a fisheries complex manager for the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service. “You can’t fish for Lahontan cutthroat trout anywhere else.”
In 1970, the LCT was listed as endangered in 1970 and reclassified five years later as threatened.
The Truckee River population will provide critical biological data that the agencies need to assess how the trout is fairing, biologically, and they hope fisherman will provide much of that information.
“We do want to hear from anglers.” Heki added.
The Lahontan cutthroat trout are the only native trout to the Truckee River Basin. They also inhabit, or did, several rivers and lakes in the Eastern Sierra, including the Carson and Walker rivers.
But some familiar with the fish and the environment are skeptical that the species will be able to re-root itself while competing with the non-native and more aggressive rainbows and brown trout.
“I think reintroducing LCT in the main stem of the Truckee is a complete waste of time. I think they should work in the tributaries, because they could put barriers to keep the non native fish out,” said Ralph Cutter, owner of the California School Flyfishing. “As long as there are rainbows, they will agressively hybridize with the LCT.”
Still, Cutter said he strongly supported any attempts to bring back the native fish.
“I am an absolute, whole-hearted supporter of the reintroduction the of the native fish.
I am against how they are doing it, but I totally support the reintroduction of the native trout,” he said.
Cutter said he felt that Bronco and Grey creeks, scorched by the Martis Fire, would be the perfect setting for releases of the Lahontan cutthroats.
“A lot of the rainbows were wiped out by the effects of the fire. The time is ripe to re-introduce the LCT in Bronco and Grey creeks,” Cutter said. “But [any attempts] are worth it if my grandchildren can see the LCT in the Truckee River.”
River Ranch is one of eight spots on the Truckee River between the dam on Lake Tahoe and the Donner Creek confluence chosen for the releases, which began three weeks ago. Officials from the two agencies tripled the number of Lahontan cutthroat trout that would normally be released. At the same time, they have quit releasing rainbows and brown trout.
Stakeholder meetings have been held for the last several years in the Reno Tahoe area. Those meetings are designed to inform and elicit feedback from those who have a vested interest in the fisheries in the Truckee River.
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