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Poisoning Pikes

The past week numerous stories on news programs discussed the fact that in spite of lots of different methods tried to control and eliminate the predatory northern pike in Lake Davis, near Portola, the California Department of Fish and Game announce that they will seek to eradicate the pike from Lake Davis around the fall of 2007.

In 1997 the California Department of Fish and Game tried to eradicate the northern pike from the reservoir by using an application of the chemical rotenone. This move was not only controversial, but also highly contested. I still have visions in my head of people strapping themselves to a buoy in order to prevent the treatment. That and the hundreds of officers, both local and state, who were there to make sure that the treatment was completed. The program was completed and the fish were killed. Unfortunately, either the original pike survived or were reintroduced by someone.

Since their latest discovery, the pike have undergone an almost constant onslaught of non-chemical methods to eliminate them. We have followed the electro-shocking using boats, netting, seining and even attempts to use explosives. The pike have survived it all!



Not only have the pike survived, but have thrived to the point that a group ” known as the Lake Davis Steering Committee, comprised of local citizens (some of whom were the most outspoken during the first project) and local, state and federal government officials ” have determined the need to eradicate once again.

Because of the pike’s potential for threatening waters downstream from Lake Davis, the Department of Fish and Game. along with the Lake Davis Steering Committee, has decided that eliminating the northern pike will be best for the long-term benefit of the ecosystem and the local community. The fear has always been that northern pike could establish themselves in the Delta, which would threaten all anadramous species, such as salmon and steelhead.




The proposed project would significantly reduce the volume of water in Lake Davis. Approximately 75 percent of the lake’s total volume would be removed and a liquid version of the piscicide rotenone would be used to eradicate the northern pike from the lake and its upstream tributaries.

The proposed project is in addition to the Department of Fish and Game’s ongoing northern pike program at Lake Davis that since 2000 has involved intensive manual removal of northern pike, pike containment efforts, outreach and education, enforcement and fisheries monitoring.

Approximately 55,000 pike have been removed and the numbers continue increase!

The Department of Fish and Game has filed a Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report that includes an Initial Study and Project Description. The Plumas National Forest published a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for a use permit in support of the Department of Fish and Game’s proposed project. The Notice of Preparation, Initial Study, Project Description and a link to the Notice of Intent can be viewed at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/northernpike.

To date, five alternatives have been identified. Three involve the use of rotenone, one involves complete dewatering (draining) of the reservoir and its tributaries and the fifth option would be to continue the current control-and-contain activities that have been in place since 2000. A reasonable range of alternatives will be identified after the Department of Fish and Game and the Plumas National Forest consider agency and public input that is received during the scoping process.

Two scoping sessions will be held on Sept. 26. The meeting times will be 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Eastern Plumas Health Care Education Center, at 500 First Ave. in Portola. Two more sessions will be held on Sept. 28, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, at 500 Leisure Lane in Sacramento. The scoping period is from Sept. 14 to Oct. 31.

After the meetings, a draft EIR/EIS will be prepared and circulated sometime next year for public review and comment. In the event that a project is approved in late 2006 or early 2007, possible treatment could occur in late summer or early fall of 2007.

Everyone is hoping that Davis Lake can be restored to the once renowned trout fishery that it once was prior to the introduction of northern pike. I for one can remember the pre-pike era. Davis provided some of the best trout fishing in the country.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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