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Drought, Algae Bloom Blamed For Fish Deaths

Courtesy of Nevada State Parks

Rye Patch Reservoir

Courtesy of Nevada State Parks

Scientists say an algae bloom may have killed all the fish at a Northern Nevada reservoir that was a popular fishing spot.

Rye Patch Reservoir is about 100 miles northeast of Reno, known for its giant catfish, small-mouthed bass, walleye and wipers, a hybrid between a white bass and a striped bass.

Brad Bauman is a biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, or NDOW. He says the die-off started last October. The lake is frozen now. And Bauman says he won't know the extent of the loss until spring.

"Right now all I know - it's very significant and it could possibly be a total loss of the fishery at Rye Patch," says Bauman.

"Once the ice comes off the reservoir we'll be able to get back out there, do some more sampling, see what the densities of golden algae is, if there's still any fish species alive out there and how many," says Bauman.

He says if all the fish are dead, NDOW will restock, but it'll take a while.

"When you have a significant fish loss like this," says Bauman "it's going to take years to rebuild the fishery in there."

"If it is a total loss, what we're going to do is we're going to monitor the water chemistry," says Bauman. "And when conditions get right after the reservoir does receive some fresh water, we'll make sure the water chemistry is okay, that fish can survive."

Bauman says because of the drought, the reservoir has been stagnant for three years with no fresh water flowing in from the Humboldt River. That created an algae bloom that can suffocate fish.

"It pretty much prevents the gills from functioning properly," explains Bauman, "and the fish aren't able to uptake oxygen out of the water resulting in usually large-scale die-offs."

Steve Milne

Morning Edition Anchor & Reporter

Steve is the voice of Capital Public Radio News as anchor of Morning Edition and Insight. He covers stories on a wide range of topics including: business, education, real estate, agriculture and music. Steve also produced stories for CapRadio.org.   Read Full Bio