Plan set to reintroduce native trout in Taylor Creek
As long as there are no unforeseen problems, fishery biologists likely will plant 50,000 Lahontan cutthroat trout eggs in Taylor Creek within the next few months in an attempt to reintroduce the once-native fish back into Lake Tahoe.
“It’s an experiment,” said Stafford Lehr, fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. “The chances of failure are much greater than the chances of success.”
Lahontan cutthroat trout disappeared from Lake Tahoe in the 1930s, victimized by overfishing, introduction of non-native fish and other human factors. An effort to reintroduce the fish in the 1960s failed.
Lahontan cutthroat trout currently are planted in Echo and Upper Angora lakes. They also are present in the Upper Truckee River, but no fisheries of notable size are present in Lake Tahoe itself.
Scientists want to closely monitor the eggs and their development. Officials hope the young fish will swim downstream to Lake Tahoe in August.
Fish and Game is planning the experiment with the help of the U.S. Forest Service and the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. Long-term monitoring is a major part of the project, which also will provide scientific data about other fish in Taylor Creek, such as the kokanee salmon and rainbow trout.
Lehr said Fish and Game doesn’t anticipate the reintroduction causing any problems with the habitats of the other aquatic life. While Lahontan cutthroat trout spawn in the spring, kokanee salmon spawn in the fall.
“It’s not like we’re trying to introduce something exotic into Tahoe,” he said. “We’re introducing a native fish. We don’t believe this will create a conflict with the other fish.”
The trout eggs will come from Alpine County’s Heenan Lake and will have the closest genetic match available to the original Lake Tahoe fish. Heenan Lake’s Lahontan cutthroat trout actually came from Lake Tahoe in the 1880s.
Lehr said fish that hatch, develop and survive in the lake could return to Taylor Creek within a year, with the bulk returning to spawn in three or four years.
He said as few as 1 percent might survive.
”If we could get 50 to 100 returned fish it would be considered a success,” Lehr said.
That is if officials are actually able to conduct the experiment.
“I would say the chances are greater than 50 percent that we’ll do this. It’s likely it will occur, but there are still a lot of hoops to go through, still a lot of things we need to do,” Lehr said. “We’re doing this as an educational experiment, working in cooperation with local interests. We have a plan, an outline we’re working off of. If anything among our cooperators doesn’t come through, it’s not going to happen.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report
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