Nevada wildlife officials are saying the entire fishery at Sparks Marina was lost because of die-offs starting in mid-December. The lake was stocked with nearly 100,000 trout, catfish, and bass.
“It looks like we lost the whole fishery,” Chris Healy, a spokesperson with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “As to why, we don’t know.”
Officials suspect low oxygen levels in the lake may be responsible, although it has not been determined what caused this decline. Healy said testing at multiple locations around the lake showed there was not enough oxygen to support fish. According to the Associated Press, some experts speculate a cold snap could have caused lower-oxygen waters to rise and suffocate the fish. In any event, the die-off is devastating to the fishery and local anglers.
“We don’t know if any small fish have survived, but for all intents and purposes, the fishery doesn’t exist anymore,” Healy told the AP.
Sparks Marina opened to the public in 2000 but has been continuously stocked with fish since 1998. Just east of Reno, the 77-acre lake is a favorite with anglers, bikers, and boaters. More than three million gallons of water is pumped into the lake daily as a result of a naturally occurring aquifer.
The NDOW stocks 26,000 trout and 4,000 catfish in the Sparks Marina annually, with occasional additions of smallmouth and striped bass. With current low oxygen levels, it is not known if the NDOW will continue to stock the lake in February. Readings taken from the bottom of the lake show no fish movement and biologists believe the die-off is nearly 100 percent.
Officials say while there may be little fish left in the lake, Sparks Marina is still safe and the water appears to be clean. Additional testing will be done by a local wastewater treatment facility to determine exactly why the fish kill occurred.
Image courtesy City of Sparks, Nevada