UNR Team Removes Invasive Fish from Lake Tahoe, Donates to Food Banks

Aug 24, 2015

A program that removes invasive fish species from Lake Tahoe and distributes them to local food banks, animal sanctuaries, and composters is back on track after losing funding last year.  

The UNR team, working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has caught more than 50,000 fish since 2011. And they’ve stretched those fish a long way.

Those that are large enough to be filleted are sent to St. Vincent’s food bank in downtown Reno, while smaller fish are given to Animal Ark just north of Reno to feed the sanctuary’s two bears. Leftovers head to Full Circle Compost, in Carson City, and are eventually used to fertilize UNR’s lawns.   Despite finding good uses for unwanted fish, the researchers’ goal is ultimately to stem the tide of invasives in the lake.   

“You know, we think of Lake Tahoe as a cold water lake so it’s kind of surprising sometimes when we hear that we have these warm water species like large-mouth bass, bluegill, or even brown bullhead, which is a catfish, in a cold water lake," says Christine Ngai, who leads the research for UNR.

  Ngai’s team is concentrating on the Tahoe Keys, Ski Run, and Crystal Shores marinas, which host the lake’s largest populations of invasive fish. If they can remove enough fish there, Ngai says they can have a real impact on the lake overall.