Thousands of Fish Die at Washoe Lake - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Thousands of Fish Die at Washoe Lake

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Three years of drought is taking its toll on Washoe Lake. The water is a few hundred yards away from the boat dock, where the water used to reach. That is leaving behind nothing but a muddy mess and thousands of dead fish. Chris Healy is a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He says the lake's water has receded much more quickly in the past few weeks.

"This kind of thing happens, periodically, at Washoe Lake," Healy said. "Unfortunately, all too often in the past couple of decades."

The fish line the old shoreline for hundreds of yards down the east side of the lake. Almost all of them are carp, and Healy says if if they are dying, you know it's a bad situation.

"They can survive some difficult problems with water, low oxygen levels, very little water to survive in," Healy said. "But in this case, no water means no survival."

Healy says in the early 1900s, the lake would go dry about once every 20 years. It's much more common now, since the area has been in a dry period for more than two decades.

"In the last 20-plus years, there's four or five instances of these kinds of things happening, with the lack of water, at Washoe Lake," Healy said.

This is a much different scenario than we saw at the Sparks Marina, last year, when thousands of fish washed up on shore because of cold water temperatures and lack of wind.

"It caused what's called a violent turnover," Healy said. "So, essentially, there was no oxygen in the water. That means no oxygen and the fish all pass away."    

Washoe Lake is only six to eight feet deep during a wet year, and NDOW doesn't stock fish there because of the potential for the lake to dry up.

"We're hoping we get an extended wet period and the day will come when we can rebuild that modest fishing at Washoe Lake," Healy said.

Meanwhile, the fish have been a source of food for other animals, whose tracks can be found along the mud. Some fish have been partially eaten.

"You're going to see raccoons out there," Healy said. "You're going to see coyotes. You're going to see a lot of birds out there that will actually clean up the mess."

NDOW says they don't plan to remove the fish. Instead, they say they will leave them there and let nature take care of the problem.
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