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Cutthroat Trout to be reintroduced into Truckee River

Staff Reports

On Monday evening, March 13, I attended a stakeholders’ meeting hosted by the United States Fish and Wildlife at its facility in Reno. The stated purpose of the meeting was to gather input from the public regarding a Restoration and Recovery Implementation Plan for the Truckee Basin. The primary goal of the Restoration and Recovery Implementation Team (RIT) is to develop a plan containing recommendations for the implementation of recovery efforts for cui-ui in the Pyramid Lake/lower Truckee River system and Lahontan cutthroat trout populations in Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe.

The Friday before the meeting, I received a telephone call from a rather distressed member of the Truckee River Fly Fishers asking if I had heard about the plans to reintroduce Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT) into the Truckee River. While I had heard about the plan, and had read articles in the Gazette Journal, I questioned the likelihood of such a plan succeeding. I fully expected to go to this meeting and learn a few facts about a small scale plan. I thought that would be the end of it.

What I can definitively tell all of you is that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will be reintroducing the Lahontan Cutthroat back into the Truckee River Basin. Why? Because the LCT is listed as a threatened specie under the Endangered Species Act. As a threatened species, all agencies and individuals must consider whether their actions or actions they authorize would affect LCT or its habitat.

The Tahoe Truckee Pyramid RIT (Recovery Implementation Team) is a team of technical experts who will be developing a basinwide ecosystem approach for cui-ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout recovery. This Team will cover some of the following topics; fish passage, The Endangered Species Act, harvest management, non-native fish, habitat, genetics/strain management, water utilization, and any other topics related to a recovery of these species.

From a fisherman’s perspective, the one area that seemed to be of most concern to this group was the treatment of Non-native Fish. This includes the rainbow and brown trout fishery that exists in the river today. These fish have been documented to impact LCT by competing for resources such as food and space, preying upon various life stages of LCT, and through hybridization.

An interesting observation was made that there has only been one successful restoration of a native fish, the West Slope Cutthroat, in Montana. In that situation, a chemical treatment of the stream eliminated all non-native species and re-established the cutthroat. Could this happen here?

Probably not according the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, but the one statement that makes me a bit uneasy is the implication that they would do whatever their technical experts advised them to do. Perhaps input at future stakeholder’s meetings can give these experts the needed direction from a fisherman’s perspective. The plan to restore these fish will not waver according to the USFWS representative, Bob Williams. They are required to move forward under the Endangered Species Act.

The opinions in the room varied from one extreme to the other. One person gave a rather idealistic dissertation on how we have an opportunity to bring the magnificent Lahontan Cutthroat Trout back from the brink of extinction. The other extreme hammered away that the original strain of Lahontan Cutthroat that inhabited Pyramid Lake is probably gone forever and this attempt would be a waste of our existing resource. Trout Unlimited supports the reintroduction, while other fishing groups are lining up against it.

The scope of this project is huge, involving the entire Truckee Basin. Some of the items already under discussion are a fish ladder at Derby Dam, the possible removal of Numana Dam and fish passages at other diversions.

I urge all of you to keep abreast of what is going on with this recovery effort. While the plan itself is still not formulated, it has the potential to impact all of the waters that we fish. The USFWS has a website to address the recovery efforts. It is http://www.truckeerit.com. The site is supposed to keep stakeholder groups aware of future meetings and of results of the various technical committees formulating the plan.

What will be interesting is to see how other recreational groups are impacted by this recovery plan. For example, as spawning sites for the LCT are identified, how will rafting concerns fare?

When asked if the economic impact to businesses is being considered, the answer indicated that it is not at this time. Obviously, this is distressing to those who have built up their businesses and depend on our existing fishery. The impact could be huge. Stay tuned, there will certainly be much more to come as the technical experts begin their assessments.

FISHING REPORT

The General Trout Season will open on Saturday, April 29. The following waters are year round lakes that are still open.

Waters are now pretty much ice free and only limited by access. Lake Tahoe has been fishing well for mackinaw. Fishing with a guide for at least the first time or two is highly recommended even if you typically fish on your own.

Pyramid Lake, northeast of Reno, is fishing very well particularly for shore anglers. Walker Lake near Hawthorne, Nevada is also fishing well. Both of these lakes offer fishing for large Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Some very large fish have been reported Topaz Lake has seen good action since it opened recently as well. Both boat and shore fishing has been successful. A California or Nevada license works at this lake that sits in both states like Tahoe.

Boca, Donner, Prosser, and Stampede are now fishable. Good reports have been coming out of Boca, Prosser, and Donner. Stampede has been fishing well for some, but slow for others.


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