The Department of Wildlife usually plants the river with 70,000 trout. This year it’s putting in half that number. That’s because Truckee River levels are expected to drop. Chris Healy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife says that will make the fish more vulnerable to predators.
“Everybody is trying to eat you out in nature and the fish are not spared from that challenge,” Healy says.
So, the fish are going in now, making this the earliest plant in 20 years. But it’s not ideal because the river is muddy.
"Smaller fish get eaten by fish-eating birds, they get eaten by fish eating fish. It is not going to be totally dry where we loose the fishery. But it is going to be concentrated.”
Healy says the drought has many effects on wildlife and people. It has brought bears into urban areas, leading communities to enact new bear-proof-container ordinances. The Department may also increase the number of hunting licenses for many species to prevent animals from starving because they can’t find enough food.
“And you could see fish die and remember each one of those fish represents a one-dollar bill,” Healy says.
That’s what it costs for the Department to raise the fish. The other 35,000 fish that would normally be planted in the Truckee will instead go to Lake Tahoe and other streams in the Sierra.
January brought above-average rainfall and snow to much of California, partly due to El Niño. But forecasters say the ocean warming condition is "taking a break" for the next week or longer.
The U.S. Drought Monitor says, other than a slight reduction in exceptional drought in the northern Sierra, it needs more time to assess impacts of the recent moisture on California's long-term drought.
California regulators have made modest adjustments to water conservation requirements for cities.
The second measurement this winter of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was 130 percent of average. State water officials say the snowpack will help reservoir recovery.
California's water conservation rate dropped to 18 percent in December. But water regulators say the state continues to meet its long term goals.