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Column: Low levels on Truckee River raise concerns for local fishermen

Bruce Ajari

The Truckee River has been running at varying levels this spring and now into early summer. The reality of these changing water levels has been noticed by all of us that fish on this river for years.

We are hoping that some better management for water releases will come out of the latest Truckee River Operating Agreement negotiations. Unfortunately, until this agreement is finalized, water levels appear to be fluctuating greatly and not necessarily for the benefit of fishery concerns.

I drive along the Truckee River each day into Tahoe City and have noticed the releases from the dam in Tahoe City have rarely exceeded 200 cubic feet per second (cfs). I can think of about only two times this year when the release exceeded the 200 cfs rate. These periods have also been very short in duration.

Most of the time this year the river between Tahoe City and River Ranch has been a pitiful 70 to 100 cfs. It is at 117 this week.

Fishing would certainly improve if the water levels were higher. The constant fluctuations are also not good for any aquatic life that forms the trout’s food chain.

Veteran fishermen have noticed the lack of available fish in this section this year. These poor flows translate into very poor conditions for the trout. Trout tend to move to find water that is more comfortable to them.

This has been borne out by the results of fishermen before and during the short times that we had higher flows this year. Fishing was very good when we had higher flows. Areas that appeared to be void of fish prior had some pretty nice fish in them.

You can usually find an area that fishes well on the Truckee River because one of the reservoirs will undoubtedly be releasing water for the downstream users. It is very unfortunate that certain parts of the river such as this stretch get hit hard.

An even more attention getting example of flow problems has been occurring on the Little Truckee River between Stampede Reservoir and Boca Reservoir. Here the flows had been lowered to a very minimal 34 cfs from over 200 cfs. Today we sit at about 63 cfs.

Once again, fish cannot tolerate such low flows. However, fish can move back into a reservoir such as Boca. Aquatic insects are not so fortunate. They get exposed when the water level drops to such extremely low periods and typically do not survive. Whole generations of insects can be lost when this occurs.

With the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT) Recovery Plan moving forward on the Truckee River, I strongly urge all of you interested in our local fishery to get informed about what is going on with our river and its overall drainage. It is an extremely important issue.

The situation that I have outlined will only become more frequent and drastic as downstream water demands are being created. Minimum flows for our fishery that are realistic and sustainable must be part of any future plan if the Truckee River is to maintain its great fishing opportunities.

A recent flyer from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that a technical workshop on the reintroduction of the LCT will be held in Truckee on Saturday, July 29 at the Truckee Veterans Hall from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This workshop will be a joint Truckee/Reno event.

There will be presentations by members of the Recovery Implementation Team (RIT) who will review the studies being conducted on genetics, population viability analysis, in-stream flows, water quality, temperature tolerance, cottonwood restoration, habitat restoration, stocking evaluations, and fish passage.

If you are interested in being a part of the Truckee recreational users groups, please contact Steve Trafton at (510) 528-4772. He is responsible for setting up meetings and obtaining input from anglers, rafters and any other groups that recreate on the river. These groups will develop recommendations for the RIT to use as they develop the recovery plan.

An agenda should be available in early July. I will try to get the details of this workshop into a later column. The health and well being of the Truckee River and its drainage should be of great concern to all of us that hold recreation in high regard in this region. Make sure that your views are part of this grand plan for the river.

Fishing Report

Boca-(38,642 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair to good. Most anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are having some success. The area near the dam is also fishing well. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Some anglers throwing lures along the shoreline have been productive as well. Boaters are having fair to good success. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow imitating lure. Kokanee fishing has been good. Flyfishermen near the inlet should have fair to good action using a variety of nymphs, streamers, and emergers.

Donner-Fishing has been good. Most anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had fair to good success. A few large fish continue to be reported. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair to good success.

Lake Tahoe-(Elevation 6229.04) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair. Tributaries to Tahoe are closed to all fishing between July 1 and closes again on September 30. No fishing is also allowed within 300 ft. of these tributaries.

Martis Lake-(Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks.

Zero fish may bagged or possessed) Fishing is fair to good. Blood midges, callibaetis and damselflies are showing. Try using nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Damselfly imitations or the A.P. Streamers that imitate small fish, and wooly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quiqley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams, and Griffith’s Knat are good choices.

Little Truckee River-(This area between Stampede Reservoir downstream to Boca Reservoir is now subject to artificial barbless lures with a two fish bag limit of fish 14 inches maximum)-The river flow has been raised slightly to a rate of 63 cubic feet per second. Even with a slight increase in flows, the fishing should improve in this stretch. Flyfishermen fishing this section are concentrating on a mix of nymphs, emergers, dries, and streamers.

Prosser-(29,557 ac.ft.) Prosser fishing has been fishing fair to good. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Flyfishermen near the inlets are fishing primarily with nymphs and streamers.

Stampede-(223,236 ac. ft.) Stampede is fair to good. Most shore anglers are catching some very nice fish. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners are having good success for kokanee salmon. Most used a flasher of some sort and a kokanee bug or wedding ring with a piece of white corn. Kokanee fishing should be best in the early low light hours or in the evening now as summer is upon us.

Truckee River- The release has been decreased to 117 cubic feet per second from the dam at Tahoe City. In the Truckee area the river is running at around 212 cubic foot per second rate. Look for dfficult fishing in the upper section between Tahoe City and Truckee due to lower flows. Seasoned anglers are doing well on the rest of the Truckee. Most fish being caught in the special regulation areas are being caught on nymphs, emergers, dries or streamers. Caddis and Little Yellow Stones are showing in pretty good numbers now. The Green Drakes appear to have subsided for the most part.

Other Waters- Jackson Meadows reservoir has been good. Davis and Frenchman lakes fished fair to good this past week.


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