LAKE MEAD, LAKE MOHAVE
End of a trout-stocking era has arrived
Sometime in mid-March, the Nevada Department of Wildlife will release the last load of rainbow trout for the agency's annual stocking season at Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. But unlike years past, the release of these final truckloads of fish will mark more than the end of a trout-stocking season. They will mark the end of an era, the end of NDOW trout stocking efforts along the Lower Colorado River.
The beginning of the end started in January 2007 with the discovery of quagga mussels in the Lower Colorado River system and shortly thereafter in the Lake Mead Fish Hatchery. Coupled with high water temperatures associated with dropping water levels, the quagga mussels were the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and ultimately led to the hatchery's closure. NDOW could not risk moving mussels from the hatchery to other state waters through its trout-stocking efforts.
"We have a couple of issues at Lake Mead. One is the lake has dropped more than 100 feet and the basic water company water intake is now less than 40 feet below the surface, which means that we get our water at warmer temperatures -- above 70 degrees in July and August. And that's just too warm to raise trout," said Mark Warren, NDOW fisheries chief. "So we have the warm water issue and, of course, the main one is that we have a quagga mussel infection. As a result, we shut down the hatchery."
Following the Lake Mead Hatchery's closure in spring 2007, the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery offered NDOW the use of a few of its raceways as well as net pens submerged in the cold waters of the Colorado River. Since then, the trout NDOW has released in Lake Mead and Lake Mohave each winter have been raised at this facility. However, NDOW has chosen to discontinue this practice because of logistics and escalating costs.
Though NDOW will no longer be stocking trout in Lake Mead or Lake Mohave, the agency hopes the program can be revived by reopening the Lake Mead Fish Hatchery at some point.
"Our hope is that sometime in the future we can get it up and running again. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is building a new intake that will draw water from 200 feet below the surface of Lake Mead, and they'll ozonate it and chlorinate it. If we were able to tap into that water supply, that would enable us to bring the hatchery back online, but there also would be significant costs associated with doing so. All that will need to be considered as we move forward," said Warren.
Even though NDOW no longer will stock trout in Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, the agency will continue to stock the Las Vegas area urban ponds and the popular fisheries in nearby Nye and Lincoln counties. Those include Eagle Valley Reservoir, Echo Canyon reservoir and the impoundments at the Kirch Wildlife Management Area. In addition, the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery will continue its weekly trout plants at Willow Beach.