Fish find new home in Desolation Wilderness |

Fish find new home in Desolation Wilderness

Andy Bourelle

Hikers hitting the trails and enjoying the many lakes in Desolation Wilderness earlier this week may have seen something a little fishy.

Instead of seeing large fish swim up to the surface of the clear blue water, Desolation visitors may have seen thousands of baby trout floating down from the sky.

Even though no roads lead to the lakes, the California Department of Fish and Game stocks them full of trout each summer, as well as many other difficult-to-access lakes in the Sierra Nevada.

Members of Fish and Game dumped more than 2 million brown, brook and rainbow trout into hundreds of hard-to-access lakes surrounding Lake Tahoe this summer. Working at the South Lake Tahoe Airport Monday and Tuesday, officials transported the fish to a Beachcraft King Air airplane, took repeated flights over the wilderness and dumped the fish into the bodies of water.

“Their survivability is really good,” said Donovan M. Ward, fish culturist for the Department of Fish and Game, Region II. “They fall like leaves. You’d kill a bigger fish if you dropped it from an airplane, but these are OK as long as long as we get them in the water.”

The trout used are small – with 175 of them equaling one pound – and they come from the Mt. Shasta Hatchery.

The trout were transported inside a refrigerated compartment on a truck and kept in five-gallon cans, with tubes feeding into the water to keep oxygen going to the fish. At the airport, workers moved the fish to the airplane, dumping them into separate compartments for the different lakes.

The process is planned efficiently, Ward said, and how many fish go where is known far in advance.

Biologist Patrick Foy said Fish and Game is in the process of planting fish in 950 to 1,000 hard-to-access lakes throughout California.

Earlier, Department of Fish and Game Region I planted fish in hard-to-access northern lakes. Region II – which planted fish around Lake Tahoe – is now done with its work, and Region IV will be moving south along the Sierra Nevada. The same airplane is used for all the planting.

Fish and Game began fish planting in 1946.

The work is done with the permission of the U.S. Forest Service, Ward said, and all of the data is carefully documented.

Ward said Fish and Game goes through the trouble to stock the lakes for the benefit of people who want to enjoy the land.

“We do it for outdoor enthusiasts who come out to enjoy the area and catch fish from the lakes they hiked to,” Ward said. “It’s something this department thinks is needed to help people have a good outdoor experience.”

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