Low water levels caused by persistent drought conditions and irrigation demands at Wildhorse Reservoir have prompted the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) to remove the limit on trout, allowing anglers unlimited take. This emergency regulation is now in effect and will run throughOctober 15, 2013.
NDOW is concerned that with anticipated low reservoir water levels during the hot summer months the oxygen levels in the water could become low enough to cause a large number of the trout to die. The last time the conditions were similar to this year was in 2007 when an estimated 20,000 quality size game fish (mostly trout) died in August of that year.
“With the conditions what they are we expect to lose the majority of the trout at Wildhorse this summer,” said Jon C. Sjöberg, Fisheries Division Chief. “The purpose of this regulation change is to give anglers the maximum opportunity to harvest these fish as soon as possible before these conditions get any worse.”
This temporary emergency regulation lifting the current limit of five trout will allow for a maximum harvest of trout prior to the anticipated summer die off. Trout species, particularly larger trout have higher metabolic rates and lower tolerances to low oxygen levels and high water temperatures associated with summer time water conditions.
The current conditions for the summer of 2013 for Wildhorse Reservoir are actually worse than those of 2007, with a reservoir that is only 34 percent of capacity in 2013 compared to 78 percent of capacity in 2007. Expected downstream irrigation demands and dropping water levels project that a summer fish kill is likely under current conditions, and could occur earlier than the 2007 event.
Since May 2012, the watershed has had below average precipitation amounts (84 percent in 2012 and 80 percent in 2013), while downstream irrigation demands have remained the same. The reservoir is currently at only 34 percent of capacity, and is dropping 8 to 10 inches of elevation per week.
Wildhorse Reservoir is located 65 miles North of Elko on State Hwy 225 and is one of Northeast Nevada’s largest and most popular fisheries for quality and trophy size trout, including rainbow, bowcutt (hybrid cross of a rainbow and cutthroat trout), brown and tiger trout. The fishery is well known for good catch rates and liberal limits, trout harvest that average in length of 16 to 22 inches long and year round angling opportunity throughout the seasons.
Image courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife