GONE FISHIN’: Lahontan Cutthroat Trout recovery update
On Nov. 18, I attended the most recent meeting on the state of drafting a plan to reintroduce the native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout into the Truckee, Walker and Carson River drainages. Congress determined in the Endangered Species Act of 1973 that various species of fish, wildlife and plants in the United States had been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.
The purpose of the act is to provide a way to conserve and protect the ecosystems in which fish, wildlife and plants live. The Fish and Wildlife Service is mandated by law to take actions to prevent the listing of species. Once a species is listed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to develop and implement recovery actions that will remove the species from the Endangered Species List.
For instance, the spotted owl controversy was created when economic interests met head on with the environmental concerns of this species. To date, the recovery efforts for the trout have not been adequate to remove the species from the Endangered Species List. As a threatened species under this act, the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is being re-introduced into the Truckee River drainage.
While the draft plan was supposed to be ready for public review by mid-October, the reality is many of the technical reports are not yet complete. Areas for reintroduction have been identified and were reviewed during the July meeting in Truckee. At that meeting, the area of the Truckee River in California where the reintroduction would begin was identified as the stretch of water from the Tahoe City Dam to the Donner Creek. Other areas within the five-year or short-term plan in our region are Coldstream Creek, Alder Creek and Independence Creek.
Prior to completing the draft plan there are a number of questions that still need to be answered. Among the most serious are the genetics, non-native species and water issues. Which sub-species of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout will be reintroduced? This is the genetics question. While the original species of Lahontan Trout once found in Pyramid Lake is thought to be extinct, many subspecies exist in both our state and elsewhere in the western U.S. Finding the best genetic match is the task scientists are being asked to complete. They will be trying to find a fish that will fit the needs of both the migratory lake-dwelling species (Lacaustrine) and the stream dwelling species (Fluvial).
Since stocking for recreational sport fishing is such a big part of the Truckee River, this practice will continue with the stocking of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in both states in the identified areas. Until a species is identified no hatchery production can get underway. Therefore, production will most certainly lag behind, as hatcheries would have to gear up for the production of the cutthroat versus the existing rainbow.
The question of non-native game fish has to answer the question as to how effective the process will be. In other words, experts know a certain amount of hybridization (i.e. rainbows crossbreeding with cutthroats) will most certainly occur. At what point would the USFWS be willing to remove the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout from the Endangered Species list? Bob Williams, regional manager for USFWS, gave the crowd the answer as to how much hybridization within a species is “discretionary.” Genetics experts may have a loftier definition, but that remains to be seen as this study unfolds.
Arguably the most difficult item will ultimately ensure the success or failure of any fishery is the water issue. Ensuring adequate water for the fish is the biggest piece of the puzzle in my estimation.Those of us who have fished the Truckee River for many years have seen the fluctuations in the river and the resultant bad or good fishing. Flows have been outstanding the past six years and the fish have thrived.
That is not to say that there have not been flow issues. The releases during this period have not always favored the fish and other aquatic life in the river. This is why the key, I believe, is the water – ensuring good flows, both minimum and maximum, as well as well-structured flow regimes. This will all be part of the Truckee River Operating Agreement of which the USFWS is now an active member. In my opinion, whether favorable flows can be maintained for the fishery to thrive will be determined here.
This is the real future of our fishery. As Banky Curtis, regional manager for the California Department of Fish and Game said, “It only takes water to make all this happen.”
There are certainly other issues, but these are the primary ones the fishing community is focusing on. What about other economic interests, individual property rights and future development? These are questions that will be answered in time. When the draft plan does come out, it will be incumbent upon each and every one of you to review the plan for your particular area of concern and provide comments during the 60-day public comment period.
Boca – (18,343 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair. Anglers fishing from shore near the inlet and near the dam are having the best luck. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Boaters are having fair results. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow-imitating lure. Fly-fishermen 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 action. Mackinaw fishing has been fair. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow-imitating lures have had fair-to-good results.
Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6,226.76) 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.
Prosser – (9,806 ac. ft.) Prosser fishing has been fishing fair to good. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Trolling has been mostly with flashers and nightcrawlers. Fly-fishermen near the inlets are primarily using midges, nymphs and streamers.
Stampede – (203,494 ac. ft.) Stampede is rated as fair to good. Shore angling is good. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Kokanee are now in full spawning mode. Fly-fishing is fair. Nymphs and streamers have been working best.
Other Waters – Jackson Meadows Reservoir is fair to good. Davis Lake has been fair to good. While there is still some open water, the lake is beginning to freeze over. The same holds true at Frenchman although there is reportedly more open water. Eagle Lake near Susanville continues to fish well. Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno has also been fishing well. Good numbers and some larger fish are starting to show.
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.