California is not the only Western state to be plagued by drought, more than half of Nevada is still locked in extreme drought conditions as of August 8. This is bad news for wildlife, and extremely bad news for fish. Earlier this week a group of volunteers worked alongside Nevada Department of Wildlife (DOW) employees to save 6,000 fish from a number of drying ditches near Reno. According to KRNV, men and women waded through the Washoe and Verdi ditches with nets and electrofishing equipment for two days. Their targets: rainbow and brown trout, as well as a smaller number of mountain whitefish and minnows.
“We’re trying to make sure the fish in there get a second chance,” Chris Healy, a spokesman for the Department of Wildlife. told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Nobody likes to see a natural resource go to waste. We would have seen a lot of fish go to waste.”
The Reno diversion canals were due to go dry soon because of the drought’s effect on the Truckee River. If it was not for the salvage effort, thousands of fish would have become stranded and eventually died as parts of Nevada edged towards a category D4 drought, the highest recognized by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
“The water that those fish were living in would have become too warm,” Healy explained to KUNR. “The oxygen would have become depleted, and the fish would have started rolling over and dying.”
Actually catching the fish proved to be an easy affair, as the group’s electrofishing equipment quickly brought the fish to the surface. There, they were scooped up by the net-wielders and placed within large fish tanks on trucks. Most of the fish were transported back to the Truckee River itself while others were stocked in a few small ponds. Electrofishing is a popular method of capturing fish while causing minimal harm, and experts do not expect the operation to have any effect on the fish rescued.
The future of fish in the Truckee River is in question, however. Officials say that another year of drought in the area could mean a disaster for the fishery.