Trout come early to Truckee Meadows due to drought

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Trout come early to Truckee Meadows due to drought

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Anglers will need to start early this season due to ongoing drought conditions in the Truckee Meadows.

Anglers will need to start early this season due to ongoing drought conditions in the Truckee Meadows. This week the state began to stock the rivers.

On the banks of the Truckee River, wildlife officials scoop dozens of trout from an idling truck. Crossing the parking lot quickly, they toss the wriggling mass into the shallows.

This is not an unusual scene, but this year is different. Chris Healy with the Department of Wildlife says it's the earliest in two decades.

"Usually, we stock in mid-March to late-March, but this time we know we don't have enough water upstream to keep the flows going at an acceptable level. And it's really important that people go out and enjoy early because we can't guarantee we will have enough water to fish in once we get into the summer season."

This year, the state is only stocking 35,000 fish here, half of what's normal.

Sudeep Chandra, who's a limnologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, says low flows impact all facets of rivers and lakes in the Great Basin. Fish start to gather in only small pockets of the river, algae accumulate and the normal migratory patterns are skewed.

"Traditionally, we have these western Great Basin systems, like Truckee, Carson, Walker, would be receiving most of their water during the spring snowmelt, but there were years when there were drought conditions within the river, from a natural background standpoint, so I don't think this is a major concern for the river yet. But if we have multiple drought periods, then the concerns are related to how we may restore native fishes within the river like Lahontan cutthroat trout, or where the fishing community can go angling."

The number of trout that can be caught in the Truckee River is being lowered this year from five to three. The state stocks about a million fish each year, almost half of which goes to Western Nevada.