Tahoe RCD plan to eradicate some non-native fish in Lake Tahoe concerns anglers
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Tahoe Resource Conservation District is proposing a program to eradicate some invasive fish in Lake Tahoe.
The Target Invasive Fish Control Program will target Smallmouth bass, Largemouth bass, Bluegill, Black crappie, Brown bullhead and goldfish.
“This project is targeting invasive fish that were illegally introduced and are not managed by any state wildlife agency for recreational fishing,” said Mollie Hurt, Director of Programs for Tahoe RCD in an email. “These species are known to predate upon, and compete with both native and non-native aquatic species (fish and amphibians), as well as native recreational sportfish. In addition, these species are known to disrupt ecosystem function and create negative ecological effects to food web dynamics and composition.”
Different control methods would include electrofishing which introduces an electric field to the water that temporarily stuns the fish, benthic electrode arrays which lethally electrocutes fish eggs, fishing nets and traps, angling and education outreach and triburtar exclusions weirs that catch fish and removes them from the stream. The proposed program would not use chemicals to eradicate the fish.
Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters owner Victor Babbitt is concerned that these eradication methods won’t work.
“I don’t think they have the proper science yet,” Babbitt said. “I don’t think they could eradicate, they could just knock the population down but it would require an annual budget to stay on top of that.”
“Control work could potentially harm non-target species,” Hurt said. “However, mitigation measures are designed to reduce effects to the health and safety of other species.”
She also said qualified biologists and technicians will implement and monitor control measures to reduce effects to non-target species.
One potential impact could be improvements to native fish such as the Lahontan cutthroat trout that were reintroduced into the lake last summer.
However, some commercial anglers are concerned about possible impacts to non-native fish, such as the mackinaw trout.
“Cutthroat don’t live well with mackinaw,” said Nor-Cal Charters Lake Tahoe Captain Andrew Lubrano.
Even though mackinaw aren’t being targeted by this program, Lubrano is concerned they may eventually be eliminated to make room for cutthroat. Still, Lubrano is staying optimistic.
“There isn’t a lot of evidence that [cutthroat] will be a successful fish in Tahoe but if they are, it will be a net gain for everyone,” Lubrano said.
Babbitt also agrees that there hasn’t been proof that the cutthroat can survive. He says he would support the effort if he knew it would work but for now, it seems like a money grab.
Ultimately, he thinks anglers like himself would be the most impacted by this program, if the population of species he fishes drops or disappears.
Despite concerns, Tahoe RCD has said they’ll stay away from recreational non-native fish.
“We want people to understand the impacts that these species are having on Tahoe’s fragile and rare environment,” Hurt said. “We want to encourage people to support the need to remove these aquatic species from Lake Tahoe.”
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