Endangered trout survives Martis Fire | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Endangered trout survives Martis Fire

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Last month’s Martis fire charred some 14,500 acres of the Truckee River Canyon and two of the river’s major tributaries west of Reno, but efforts to return the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout to the Truckee apparently were not harmed.

The blaze overran the canyon as well as Gray Creek and Bronco Creek, but surveys of the affected area conducted since the fire indicate damage to the fish and its habitat are not as significant as feared, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Randi Thompson.

Lahontan cutthroat trout flourished across much of the region until about 60 years ago. The Truckee River’s naturally reproducing cutthroat trout died out in 1940 because of overfishing, dams, water diversions and the introduction of competing non-native fish.

Fish and Wildlife officials are working on plans to re-establish the fish in both the Truckee and Walker River watersheds.

The Nevada Division of Wildlife planted Lahontan trout in the creeks in 1983, 1984 and again in 1987. The population of the fish appeared to flourish.

While the Martis Fire burned downstream from parts of the creeks where the trout were planted, biologists were concerned that the fire could have killed many fish by heating creek waters.

But surveys found healthy populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout surviving upstream of the burn area, easing concern, Thompson said.

”They’re up there hopefully being self-sustaining and showing they can survive in this watershed,” Thompson said. ”We do want to have these creeks for recovery of the species.”

Continued concern centers on the possibility that heavy rainfall could cause erosion in the burn area, polluting the creeks and river with mud and ash, Thompson said.

The fire also uncovered many old roads near the creeks that had been covered with vegetation, Thompson said. Biologists are hoping that in rehabilitating the fire area, the Forest Service may remove some old roads closest to the creeks to reduce potential impact on the fish population.

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