Lahontan Cutthroat Trout: Recovery, Reproduction, and Recreation

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout: Recovery, Reproduction, and Recreation


The Cutthroat Trout is
kind of like a symbol of, the diversity that was in Nevada.
All the plants, all the animals, and these organisms are also a surrogate
for the health of those ecosystems. And we as humans depend
upon those ecosystems. The strain of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
that is native to the Tahoe Basin went completely extinct in
these waters in the 1940s. Then in the 1970s, a population of this strain of fish was
found in a small creek on Pilot Peak near the Nevada, Utah border. Decades of work by conservationists and
biologists like Mary Peacock made it possible to reintroduce the trout
to Pyramid Lake in 2006. Now, ongoing efforts continue to promote the
health and growth of this population. Well, it can- it can survive, but it can’t reproduce
naturally in the lake. It has to have access to
spawn- to reproductive
habitat or spawning habitat in the river. And it doesn’t. I mean, it
has access to some spawning habitat, but, uh, it- it’s not like it was historically. There are dams and diversions
on that- on the river. It can’t swim up like it used to
farther up into the watershed. There are non native fish in the river
that pose a threat to it so it can’t do its own thing. So we have to, we have
to hatchery propagate it at this point Before the hatchery can produce the trout
that will ultimately be released into the wild, the work done at
the University of Nevada, Reno by Mary Peacock and Kelly Klingler
makes it possible to determine which fish to breed. So every fall we receive hundreds to
thousands of fin clips and these are fin clips taken from um, a
hatchery raised fish. These are usually a second or
third year class, um, aged fish. And the idea is that we are going to
take each of those individual fin clips, and extract the genomic DNA. Once
we have an individual’s genotype, we can then, um, create a pairwise comparison to compare
all males with all females and then select the individuals, the two individuals that will most
maximize genetic variation in the next generation. The fin clips used to extract this
genetic information come from the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery. Here, Corene Jones uses that information in
the breeding process to produce fish that have the widest diversity
of traits as possible. We work with a, a listed species, The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout are the
only fish that we have on station. Um, they are listed as threatened
under the endangered species act. With hundreds of thousands of
fish to manage at the hatchery, the Department of Wildlife has a
complex tracking system in place. Um, each fish gets a PIT Tag,
passive integrated transponder tag, and it does the exact same thing as a
microchip- as you would microchip a dog or a cat. And so each fish gets a, a PIT tag and at the same
time we take a little, uh, fin clip from their tail and the fin clip
gets a genetic ID number that’s linked to their PIT tag. So when Mary does
a genetic profile for each fish, that’s then linked back
to their PIT tag number. And we use that information when we’re
spawning fish in the spring to make, uh, genetically informed pairings. The trout need as diverse of a toolbox
of traits as possible to survive whatever changes the climate and
environment may throw at them. You know, when you think of a trait
you’re thinking about hair color, height, you know, all the, all
these things that make you, you- you can also go into a fish and
say these are all the things that make a fish a fish. So we’ll go through the entire adult
broodstock and we’ll check which fish are ripe and we’ll record
their PIT tag numbers, and I take the PIT tag information the
next day and run it through the spawning matrix that Mary makes. And then the following day we go out
and find those individual fish and make specific pairs. After this work is done and
the trout have been released, it’s up to nature to take its course. The fish have, um, basically proven themselves over
time after we started stocking them. And Pyramid Lake is a
perfect example of, um, why, why folks should care
about a native strain. These fish were thought to be extinct. And then we started restocking them in
the mid two thousands and since then the fishery did 180. Once
these fish started to um, grow and exhibit some of
the life characteristics-
life history characteristics that are specific to the strain, which
is really long lived and very large size. And the fishery Pyramid Lake is
now like a world renowned fishery. People literally come from all over the
world to go fishing in Pyramid Lake and there are not many places where you can
go and catch a 25 pound Cutthroat Trout in its native habitat. So
that’s pretty spectacular. To have this symbol of Nevada thriving
in its native waters is a source of pride for all involved. There are still decades of work ahead
as we look towards the future for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Our ultimate goal is to have these fish
spawning on their own in the wild at self-sustaining populations. And that’s really the work that we do
here- that’s really what we’re working toward.

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