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Old 09-03-2013, 03:15 PM
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Default Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Poisoning a Sierra stream to save the world's rarest trout
Officials pour poison into Silver King Creek, killing nonnative trout species, in order to make a home for the Paiute cutthroat trout.

Poisoning a creek to save a species

(Picture here which didn't transfer)

Rachel Van Horne, a biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, lugs a bucket of nonnative trout killed through intentional poisoning along an 11-mile stretch of Silver King Creek in the High Sierra. The poisoning with the natural toxin rotenone aims to restore the creek for the native Paiute cutthroat trout, which had been squeezed out by invasive nonnative species. (Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times / August 28, 2013)



By Louis Sahagun

September 2, 2013, 6:31 p.m.

WALKER, Calif. — State fisheries biologist Dave Lentz poured poison into a remote High Sierra stream and watched quietly as every rainbow and golden trout in the water turned belly up.

After the rotenone spread along 11 miles of Silver King Creek last Wednesday, other biologists poured in a neutralizing agent, making the river again habitable — and a suitable home for the rarest trout in the world.

Kneeling beside a small brass spigot that dripped the milky white toxin into a pool edged with alders, Lentz, a conservation coordinator for native trout with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, smiled and said, "Looks like everything is working as intended. The Paiute cutthroat trout belongs in this stream, not the nonnatives in here now."

The Paiute trout is native to the Alpine County stream in the Eastern Sierra's Carson-Iceberg Wilderness of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. But it had been squeezed out by rainbow and golden trout, which are not native to this portion of Silver King Creek.

The plan to restore the Paiute trout had been held up in federal court for more than a decade by opponents who believe that poisoning a stream is about the worst thing that could happen in a designated wilderness. They also question the safety of rotenone and worry about its possible long-term effects on wildlife and regional water supplies.

Biologists say rotenone is a natural poison derived from peas that breaks down rapidly and poses no threat to water supplies.

After the poisoning, biologists in waders sloshed in knee-deep water, using nets to scoop up the trout and place them in buckets. The remains were to be tossed into the forest as an unexpected banquet for insects, birds and mammals.

Alpine County Supervisor Don Jardine is among the critics of this recovery effort by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jardine first fished this wilderness with his father more than half a century ago.

"I have a basic philosophical objection to anyone polluting a natural waterway," Jardine said. "Beyond that, these agencies are taking the easy way out. They could have used less obtrusive alternatives such as electroshock, but that would have required more time, money and manpower."

Jardine also pointed out that rotenone is banned for use in U.S. coastal waters and banned entirely in Europe. Also, some rotenone treatments have flopped.

In 1992, an estimated 1,000 trout were accidentally killed along a different stretch of Silver King Creek when state wildlife biologists mistakenly used excessive amounts of potassium permanganate to neutralize rotenone.

In the late 1990s, state wildlife authorities laced the Sierra reservoir of Lake Davis with rotenone as part of an effort to eradicate northern pike, an invasive saw-toothed fish that had been ravaging the lake's trophy-size trout. The pike returned in 18 months.

In May, however, a U.S. District Court judge green-lighted the Silver King Creek project. It is intended to create a self-sustaining population of about 2,500 Paiute cutthroat in seven to 10 years, making the species eligible to become the first fish ever removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"Rotenone is as close to a silver bullet as anything we have in that it hardly impacts anything but fish," said Dan Duffield, a U.S. Forest Service fish biologist. "In this case, we're using it to restore an extremely rare fish in an area where it evolved with other creatures such as mountain yellow-legged frogs."

Since the 1960s, mountain yellow-legged frogs have been decimated in the Sierra Nevada by predators including nonnative fish.

The historic range of the Paiute cutthroat is thought to have been limited to about 9 miles in Silver King Creek. By the early 1900s, the species was in danger of extinction through interbreeding with hybridized nonnative trout.

The Paiute cutthroat's range was extended into the upper reaches of Silver King Creek — inaccessible to nonnative trout — via unofficial transplantation of the fish by Basque sheepherders in 1912. The Paiute descendants are the only known pure strain of the iridescent purplish trout.

Because the Paiute cutthroats readily take a lure or a fly, Silver King Creek was closed to fishing in 1934.

If the recovery effort is successful, the creek could be reopened to angling for native trout in less than 10 years.

"One reason it may take that long is that there aren't many pure Paiute trout left to draw stock from," said Jim Harvey, forest fisheries biologist for the U.S. Forest Service. "Once this stream is ready, our plan is to stock 50 to 100 Paiute trout at a time.

"In the meantime, we have to make sure that there isn't a single nonnative trout, or even their eggs, left alive in this stream," he added, scanning the eddies for dead fish.

louis.sahagun@latimes.co
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:00 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Interesting reading! Sure wish I knew enough about something like this to make an intelligent comment. Unintended consequences sure come to mind, but then again...

I spent quite a few family vacations at lake Pillsbury in N. Ca. and we used to be able to catch trout all day. Rumor is sometime along the way somebody put Pike in the lake thinking it was a good thing. I think they poisoned the lake at least twice over the years trying to return it to a good trout habitat. Now its just about only a pike, bluegill and powerboat lake.

I hope (and trust) they will be successful!
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:18 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Others may have a better memory, but I think they treated Davis twice and only in the last couple of years has there been much of a trout rebound. Rotenone may only kill fish, but Davis used to be FULL of snails that those big trout fed on and they've not been seen much in a while...

I hope they are successful and fear they will fail...or they will succeed and some bucket brigade knothead will haul a spawning pair of browns in there and undo all that was done. Those Paiutes (I have read) can't compete well with other predator fish around.

To accommodate frogs, DFW is also taking all the fish out of some (originally barren) high country lakes that were stocked by air with fingerlings in the past...
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:47 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Some of the forums here in the northeast are blowing up about a pond in Maine that was "reclaimed" just last week to kill off introduced smelt.
From what I've read this pond held wild brook trout over 7 lbs and splake (brook trout, lake trout hybrids) that were larger.
One guy even referred to this pond as "Labrador south".
Lot of unhappy campers.
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Old 09-03-2013, 05:22 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by moxnichts View Post
Interesting reading! Sure wish I knew enough about something like this to make an intelligent comment. Unintended consequences sure come to mind, but then again...
They did this in Arizona to provide a home for Apache Trout. The plan was to just poison everything from the lowest fish barrier up. To do this they were dumping a neutralizer to the poison at the fish barrier that would leave the fish below there alive and well.

They screwed up, the neutralizer either didn't work or it was the wrong stuff and they killed everything in that river and down into a couple reservoirs below it.
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Old 09-03-2013, 05:29 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Thanks for posting this Fred,

It's a contentious subject to be sure.

For my wife and I, this is a day that at times, we thought we'd never see. The story goes so far beyond what the article could hope to expose. If you can, take the time to find the story behind the remaining Paiute Cutts, their plight, the legal battles and the future we hope they'll have. It'll take you some time to find, but it's an interesting story and one as an angler, that's worth researching. With that knowledge, you can make your own informed opinion. But I've got a feeling that at the least, you’d come away with that “ glimmer of hope for the future “ feeling.

When you're done with that, go research the Pilot Peak strain Lahontan Cutthroats, read the data and make sure you read the stories of how they were rediscovered ( way cool ), the current plan and how they've already made an impact on western fisheries.

Good stuff for the heart and the brain, TT
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:14 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

I'm not sure what to think of these practices but to think that it's only killing off non natives would be ignorant. I'm sure other pieces of the food chain are floating down the stream dead now too. Whatever happened to "the strongest survive"?

While we're at it department of natural resources lets reintroduce the camel to the Dakotas... After all that's roughly the region they were originally native to
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:57 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

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Originally Posted by itchmesir View Post
While we're at it department of natural resources lets reintroduce the camel to the Dakotas... After all that's roughly the region they were originally native to
do they eat dry flies? ....sorry...back to the broadcast
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Old 09-03-2013, 10:30 PM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

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Originally Posted by mikel View Post
do they eat dry flies? ....sorry...back to the broadcast
I'm pretty unaware of a camels diet... So... Yes?
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:04 AM
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Default Re: Sometimes you have to kill "everything" to save something.

Yeah, this is a controversial subject, indeed. Here in New Mexico we've had debates over the same issues and the toxins have changed over the years to try to accommodate the risks and fears.

But I don't know what to do. Rio Grande cutthroat and Gila trout won't survive without help. The RGCT is one of the prettiest fish I've ever caught and I'd hate to lose it. The only reason I have the opportunity to catch them at all is because of these kinds of projects.

Add to that, even after the migration barriers are built and the threatened fish are returned there are issues. Two of my favorite places to go for RGCT are now "infested" with browns. Somehow (poor design, flooding, human action) they get past the barrier anyway and now what do we do? NMDGF electroshocks the streams and pulls the invaders out but that's playing from behind and will never be completely successful. So, do we poison the stream again to fix it?

I dunno.
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