Lahontan cutthroat trout, which is the state
fish for Nevada, has existed in the Pyramid Lake Truckee River basin since the end of
the last ice age nearly 10,000 years ago. This was once the largest inland trout fishery
in the world up until the 1930s, when for multiple reasons the population all but disappeared
from this system. Ever since the discovery of the Pilot Peak strain of Lahontan cutthroat
trout by biologist Bob Behnke in the late 70s, we realized we had a very significant
conservation opportunity. Since 1995 we’ve been developing a conservation broodstock
of the Pilot Peak strain at Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex, and in 2006 in partnership
with the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe we stocked the Pilot Peak strain back into its home waters
in the lake. It took several years for the fish to mature in the lake, but in 2014 we
documented the first migration and reproduction of this fish in the lower Truckee River for
the first time in 80 years. The most important thing is the fish to the people. That’s how
our people used to live, off the cui-uis and the trout and the other animals around here.
From this fish being in here we have revenues of over a million dollars coming into the
tribe, and that goes to our social programs, our police, and everyone that the tribe supports.
Being able to help this fish migrate even farther up the river this year gives us the
opportunity to learn about their reproductive behavior and how they’ll use this system in
the future. So about 6 years ago we were catching fish that were, a big one was, a 10 pounder
was considered a big one. And then, just recently these Pilot Peak strain started thriving,
and we started to catch these bigger fish and they just kept getting bigger. So the
sky’s the limit really. We don’t know how big these fish are going to get. This is really
a remarkable conservation story. Having the opportunity to restore this fish population
to its home waters in Pyramid Lake is important for the state of Nevada, it’s important for
the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, for anglers, and has been the most rewarding part of my
25 year career. It’s really become a destination fishery. It’s good to see, the
health, and to see people taking care of the fish, releasing the fish. It’s just a blast.
These fish are awesome to catch. Maybe one day we’ll see them spawning again up the headwaters
of Lake Tahoe.