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EAGLE LAKE : These Trout Are Not Only Tougher, They Are Better


In 1956, the DFG took a half-dozen of that original stock, spawned them artificially and subsequently planted about 3,000 offspring back into the lake. In 1958, the project sped ahead with the construction of the fish trap and egg-collecting station.

This spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared an "extreme drought" condition for the region. One or two launching ramps may be unusable, and the water may warm earlier than usual, but the fishing should still be good.

The creek ran strong enough and long enough that DFG workers collected 1.1-million eggs--10% more than their goal--which they expect will result in about 850,000 fish, allowing for attrition.

About 200,000 of the largest will be recycled into Eagle Lake next year.

"The small fish don't come (back) here," Marshall said.

The DFG also has some insurance.

"We'll selectively spawn some of the larger fish, and those eggs will be specifically earmarked for a broodstock program at Darrah Springs Hatchery and raised there until about six months prior to spawning," Marshall said. "Then they'll be transferred to Mt. Shasta Hatchery and spawned.

"That's our backup if the whole fishery in this lake falls down. We have Eagle Lake trout in the hatchery system, either coming up as catchables or future broodstock."

The DFG intends to keep Eagle Lake for Eagle Lake trout.

Don Weidlein, DFG supervising fishery biologist for northeastern California, said the alkalinity is "extremely high and higher than most trout can survive in . . . (but) I think other fish would probably survive, particularly as water quality improves in the future, which it should do with the sealing of the tunnel.

"I would suspect that Lahontan cutthroat would survive better than Eagle Lake trout, based on work we have done elsewhere."

In one project at Indian Tom Lake, cutthroat survived, but Eagle Lake trout didn't--although Weidlein points out that other water quality factors also could be important. His greatest fear is that someone might illegally introduce bass back into the lake, upsetting the delicate balance.

"It would be a disaster for the trout fishery," he said.

During the spring run, a DFG employee lives in the small shack on a bluff above Pine Creek, near the fish trap. If the stream flow varies, he must adjust the flow through the trap accordingly to avoid losing any fish. At least once this year, the attendant, Al Johnson, had to get up at 2 a.m. to do it. As it was, of 475 fish handled this year, only five failed to survive the stress of the operation.

One day this spring, Marshall and Johnson were working in the enclosed streamside chamber where the diverted flow brings the fish into tanks the size of wash tubs. Marshall held while Johnson squeezed. Gently. The eggs oozed into a pan. Then Johnson squeezed a male over the eggs to fertilize them.

Periodically, DFG assistant Dottie Mason took a pan and poured it into a milk can. Soon there were enough cans in the pickup truck to start the 1 1/2-hour ride to the hatchery.

These eggs were in the tender "green" stage. At the hatchery, they were ladeled into incubator trays, where they were kept until reaching the more stable "eyed" stage, when the dead ones could be eliminated. In about 32 days they hatched.

In 56-degree water, Marshall said, some domestic broodstock will hatch in 22 or 23 days, but the water temperature at Crystal Springs is only about 48, "so that slows 'em down."

That's OK. There's no hurry, at least until next year.

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