Lake Davis Restocks Its Trout Population

Lake Davis again is alive with trout and hopefully little else.

Thousands of rainbow trout were dumped into the waters of the Sierra fishing lake that was poisoned for a second time in September to rid it of a nonnative species of pike that preys on the trout.

This week's stocking put more than 31,000 trout, generally of catchable size between 1 and 3 pounds with a few bigger ones thrown in, into the increasingly frigid waters of Lake Davis.

A much bigger stocking program is planned next spring, with close to 1 million trout ultimately expected to be deposited.

Lake Davis still remains closed to fishing, but the restocking that began Tuesday and wrapped up Thursday is a first step to readying the lake for anglers, according to California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano.

In September, more than 500 fish and game workers in 25 boats launched the state's most expensive battle against an invasive species, pouring 16,000 gallons of the fish poison Rotenone into the 7-mile-long lake and its tributaries.

If left alone, biologists say the toothy northern pike could take over Lake Davis and possibly escape to the Sacramento River system, devouring trout and salmon all the way to San Francisco Bay.

The pike - which are native to the Midwest and Canada typically grow to weigh about 55 pounds. For every pound, the pike spawns 10,000 eggs, according to state wildlife officials.

It is the second time the department has poisoned the lake, a nationally known reservoir for trout fly fishing in the Sierra back country about 150 miles northeast of Sacramento.

California first poisoned the lake in 1997 but pike reappeared 18 months later, either reintroduced illegally by a rogue angler or having survived the first poising attempt.

This time, wildlife officials used a new formulation of liquid Rotenone, an aquatic insecticide that has successfully killed northern pike in other reservoirs. They also have mapped out the area with global positioning technology, Martarano said.

Department of Fish and Game officials treated 137 miles of streams and tributaries in the area in a $16 million effort the week of Sept. 10, hauling nearly 25 tons of dead fish to a landfill east of Reno.

The effort looks successful, Martarano said.

"We haven't found any pike, but last time, it was 18 months before they turned up again, so we're not celebrating," he said. "We feel like we got them all."

Lake Davis won't be opened to the public until three separate tests reveal no presence of rotenone. Small trace amounts still are being detected but will pose no danger to the planted trout, Martarano said.

The hope is to have the situation back to normal as soon as possible, said Julie Cunningham, a Portola-based staff scientist for the fish and game department.

"The spring fishing should be great," she said.

That's good news to a tourism-dependent economy that some business representatives said was significantly damaged by the state's efforts to eradicate the pike.

"The sooner they get them back in, the sooner people can start fishing again," said 19-year-old Robert Trukki, whose mother owns Gold Rush Sporting Goods in nearby Portola.

"Since they poisoned the lake, it's been downhill for the town. We're hoping once they get the fish back in, it will pick up."

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-12-14-07 1317EST


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