How's The Truckee Doing? Ask The Fish

Mountain Whitefish from the Truckee River
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RENO, NV - The Truckee River has its ups and downs. Drought years, low water and concerns about water quality have at times been a part of its history.

But it does it a lot of attention.

So, after a dry year, how is it doing?

It turns out it's best to ask the creatures who live here.

And that's what a crew from the Nevada Department of Wildlife has been doing.

Wednesday, they were moving slowly up a section of the river along Rock Park in Sparks, some brandishing nets, others an electric wand that sends a shock through the river. The shock stuns the fish, which are then scooped up and kept in a tank.

They do this once a year, noting the number, size and species of the fish they find.

No trophy fish are netted, but the tank contains a good cross section of the river's population.

"The biggest surprise was the sheer numbers of juvenile brown trout and rainbow trout which is an indication that spawning by these species and recruitment has just been off the charts," says NDOW fisheries biologist Chris Crookshanks.

That's good news as is the low number of non-native fish. None were found at this location.

A bass and a pumpkin seed sun fish were caught further down stream earlier this week. The water is warmer there and their presence is no surprise and causes little concern.

An additional plus at Rock Park was finding mountain white fish like this one this far down the Truckee.

"Whitefish are sort of your early indicator that things are going bad on the river," says Crookshanks. "They're just a whole lot more fragile as a species. So, if you're picking up whitefish that means that your river health is doing well. Kind of a canary in the coal mine."

This is an annual report card on the river and, according to Crookshanks, it's grading well.

"The habitat's looking really good and as habitat goes, so goes the fish.