Researchers crank up voltage to combat invasive fish in Tahoe

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Researchers crank up voltage to combat invasive fish in Tahoe


UNR's Christine Ryan net some invasive and native fish in the Tahoe Keys.

Conservation efforts in the Tahoe Basin are front and center this month as the Tahoe Summit approaches and lawmakers renew efforts to get federal funding for restoration projects.

Standing on a small boat in the shallows of the Tahoe Keys, you'd never know the fight to preserve the Lake is happening right here: one electrocuted fish at a time.

Christine Ryan dunks her hand into a small tank on the boat and pulls out a delicate looking fish.

"So this is a native minnow. Obviously, it's a lot smaller than the rest."

Ryan is with the University of Nevada, Reno. She's one of the researchers trying to get a handle on invasive species in the Lake. And for this project, she's doing that through a technique called electrofishing. She lowers what looks almost like a giant claw into the water and cranks up the voltage. The shock temporarily stuns the fish, giving Ryan a chance to net them and sort out which ones are not supposed to be in Tahoe's cold waters.

"We're trying to control and reduce their number in areas where we can find them, so that hopefully they won't spread to the rest of the Lake."

Largemouth bass, blue gill, and black crappie are some of the warm water invaders. Unlike the minnows, they will not be returned to the Lake, but instead will be taken back to the lab for testing.

This is a pilot project. If it's successful at preventing the spread of these fish, this could become one of the newest tactics for the basin wide management plan. It's hoped that this removal effort could cut down on predation by warm water fish and allow the minnow and others to again thrive in their native environment.