PYRAMID LAKE, NV - It's a recovery 70 years in the making; fish biologists confirming Pyramid Lake Lahontan Cutthroat Trout are once again breeding in the lower Truckee River. It's all thanks to years of dedication by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
The last time Lahontan Cutthroats spawned in the lower Truckee, it was 1938. Over fishing and water diversions meant they were dwindling. Just a few years later, they were completely gone.
"So there has been interest ever since we lost that fish on whether there were any populations remaining," said Mary Peacock, a fish biologist with UNR.
In 2006 a stock of Lahontan Cutthroats were reintroduced to the lake after being discovered years earlier in Utah. The Utah fish had been planted decades before and were descendent of the Pyramid Lake Cutthroat.
"No natural reproduction of Lahontan Cutthroat trout has been documented since they disappeared from pyramid lake in the 40s," said Lisa Heki with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
So to this day, the population has been sustained through hatcheries. but just this spring, there is a glimmer of hope.
"And now they are finding what we call redds. Which are big fish nests where they lay a bunch of eggs," said Peacock.
"(The fish) are creating spawning beds on their own and creating offspring on their own. So they are able to sustain their own wild population," said Heki.
A final confirmation came yesterday when a DNA test showed the offspring from these fish matched that of the Utah fish planted in 2006.
"So this fish is trying to reproduce, it is trying to go into its historical spawning habitat in the Truckee and do it's thing. Which is really exciting," said Peacock.
70-years after the fish last spawned naturally, this development means recovery efforts are working and one day the fish will thrive again.
The recovery is not yet complete the fish still face problems with water diversions, but luckily laws are in place that work to protect their habitat.