East Walker River gets a checkup | RecordCourier.com

East Walker River gets a checkup

by Chuck Smock

The East Walker River underwent its annual checkup this week, and Region I fisheries biologist Patrick Sollberger says the river continues to improve as a trout fishery.

On Thursday morning, Sollberger and a crew of more than a dozen fisheries biologists, Forest Service employees and volunteers conducted an electro-shocking survey of about 600 feet of the East Walker in the seven-mile Rosachi Ranch section. This stretch of the river is protected by special regulations that include zero-limit, catch-and-release fishing only, with artificial flies and lures with single, barbless hooks.

The preliminary numbers from Thursday’s survey show that this section of the East Walker is home to more than 3,000 trout per mile.

“We found lots of young-of-the-year brown trout and rainbow trout,” Sollberger said. “That’s a good indication that the habitat is doing well and the fish are spawning. This is considered one of the best river fisheries in Region I. There aren’t too many rivers around here where you have actively spawning fish, especially in these numbers.”

In addition to the large number of yearling trout, dozens of large rainbows, browns and mountain whitefish found their way into the nets, onto the measuring board and then back into the river -a little stunned, but unharmed.

The largest brown trout measured 17.7 inches. The biggest rainbow checked in at 15.2 inches. And the largest mountain whitefish was 17.1 inches long.

While many anglers consider the mountain whitefish a trash fish, Sollberger said the native fish’s presence in the East Walker is a good sign for the fishery.

“The whitefish are doing really well and whitefish are good indicators,” he said. “If you have whitefish, you have good water quality and good temperatures.”

Good numbers of forage fish, including Lahontan redside shiners and Lahontan speckled dace, were found along with the trout and whitefish.

“There is a really good forage base for the larger browns and even the larger rainbows,” Sollberger said. “And the insect production is just tremendous, which is good for the younger fish.”

The annual surveys of the East Walker, which are usually conducted in early November when flows from Bridgeport Reservoir are reduced, have shown a pattern of improvement in the last half-decade, according to Sollberger.

“One of the interesting things is we’re finding more fish 15 to 20 miles downstream,” he said. “We’ve had four or five good water years. That means more water, and colder water, is going farther downstream.”

While the seven-mile Rosachi Ranch section of the East Walker is protected by zero-limit regulations, the river above and below the ranch is operated under the general state guidelines of five trout per day, per angler. And there is some excellent angling available in these areas. Sollberger said 10,000 to 12,000 trout are stocked in the East Walker above and below the Rosachi Ranch each year. No trout are stocked in the Rosachi section.

Surveys such as the one taken Thursday also help biologists determine if angling restrictions are having the desired effects on the fish populations. Sollberger said rainbow trout seem to be more susceptible to angling pressure than brown trout – especially with the use of commercially produced trout baits.

“(The regulations on the Rosachi Ranch) tend to protect the rainbows,” he said. “We see more and larger rainbow trout and more wild trout – ones that have actually been spawned in the river. And we also find that brown trout numbers are usually lower in other sites.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

Visitors Guide | News | Diversions | Marketplace | Weather | Community

Copyright, tahoe.com. Materials contained within this site may

not be used without permission.

About tahoe.com…