Annual Spawning Process Underway at Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake Fisheries is doing its part to restore populations of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, spawning the fish in order to help the ecosystem and the economy.
Every year, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe captures thousands of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in an effort to restore the lake with a new generation of fish. The fish make their way up a channel, where the males are separated from the females. Once they are sorted, the eggs and semen are extracted from about 200 fish.
"Eggs are mixed together and they are put in incubation stages and they'll be incubated and released, basically through Pyramid Lake Fisheries and they're restocked in different areas," Vinton Hawley, Chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe said.
The incubation process takes about three months.
Some of the funding comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"This is probably one of the premiere fishery programs in the United States, and the thing that's really great about it is this program is run by the tribe," Gerry Emm, Deputy Superintendent of Western Nevada Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs said.
Some of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout are more than two feet long and weigh as much as 25 pounds. That brings anglers to the lake, hoping to catch one of the trophy fish.
Cui-ui are also native fish in Pyramid Lake. The wet winter has improved Truckee River flows enough for the fish to swim upstream to spawn.
"The Cui-ui is actually an endangered fish and the only prehistoric fish that's found at Pyramid Lake," Hawley said.
Pyramid Lake Fisheries spawns the LCT for more reasons than recreation. It has an economic impact for the area, but the fish are a vital part of the lake's ecosystem and food chain.
"We have a national wildlife refuge for the American White Pelican and that's Anaho Island," Hawley said. "They'll get the fish and they'll take them back to the Anaho Island and they actually feed their young."
It is common for visitors to observe the fisheries program. Seventh grade students from Mendive Middle School in Sparks, took a field trip to Pyramid Lake and learned, first-hand, how the spawning process works.
"It's pretty fun," Kyle Rinaldi, Mendive student said. "I've never seen it before. It's kind of cool to see how they do it."
"I think it's cool but I just hope that they're not hurting the fishes, but I think it's pretty cool that they're doing that for the lake," Alex Schiller, Mendive student said.
The students also got a chance to visit the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center.
Tribal leaders say they are glad to offer the experience.
"It's fantastic," Alan Mandell, Vice Chairman of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe said. "Having the kids come out during the day is an incredibly important part of the overall educational aspect of northern Nevada."
The Pyramid Lake Fishery looks different than it did last year, because of lower lake levels. Spawning is happening about 200 yards lower in the channel than during a normal year. Tribal leaders say the lake has dropped about 80 feet since the Derby Dam was built in 1905.
"Over the past 50 years, the lake's probably receded 30 feet or more," Hawley said.
Still, maintaining the fish populations is important to the tribe. The Paiutes have used Pyramid Lake as a source of food for about 2,000 years. Their native tribal name is "Cui Ui Ticutta" meaning "Cui-ui eaters".
"It defines us," Mandell said. "We are what we eat and we are the Cui-ui-eating people. So, that's how important it is to our culture."