The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex
The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex (Complex) is an integrated fishery program that includes the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery, Marble Bluff Fish Passage Facility and Fishery Assistance. Our program emphasizes the connection of fishery management with the health of the lake and riverine habitats upon which species depend.
Our Mission: Promoting stewardship of native fish habitats and communities through scientific innovation and public outreach, ensuring a connection with nature for future generations of the American people.
The Complex manages the recovery implementation for the endangered cui-ui Chasmistes cujus and the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi (LCT). These fish played key historical roles in the culture and economy of the region. The cui-ui sucker is found only in the alkaline Pyramid Lake and the lower Truckee River. They were a major food source for local native American tribes throughout the 1800’s and are still important to the culture of several tribes in the region. The largest of the cutthroat family, LCT were known to reach over forty pounds and regularly migrated 114 miles in the Truckee River between Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe.
The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex maintains a broodstock of a unique genetic strain of Lahontan cutthroat trout that represent the original lake form that evolved in ancient Lake Lahontan. In historically recent times, the lake form persisted in the Truckee and Walker River Basins, including Walker Lake, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Although the last spawning run up the Truckee River from Pyramid Lake occurred in the late 1930’s, transplanted fish were found in the Pilot Peak Mountains in the late 1970’s along the border of Nevada and Utah. Utilizing genetics of museum mounts from 1872 to 1911 of fish known to be of the Truckee River Basin, it was determined that the LCT in the Pilot Mountains were descendants of the original Truckee Basin LCT.
Over a fifteen year period the Complex has carefully developed a stock of LCT from wild fish collected at Pilot Peak. Throughout this process genetic diversity is carefully maintained with each spawning fish individually marked, genetically analyzed and then paired with the individual that will most preserve the unique genetics of this rare lacustrine (lake form) of cutthroat trout. The resulting Pilot Peak strain, which grows 0.6 inches per month at the hatchery, is now in full production. This fish is also performing well in Pyramid Lake, growing at a monthly rate of about one half inch per month, with six year old fish reaching twenty four pounds in weight.
About 300,000 - 400,000 LCT are raised and released each year, all of which are genetically monitored to ensure that the historical genetic legacy is preserved. The Complex provides fish of all age classes in support of fishery management, recovery activities as well as supporting recreational fishing. Currently the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery produces fish for Pyramid Lake, Walker Lake, the Truckee River, Fallen Leaf Lake and Marlette Reservoir.
Other work includes partnering with Tribal, federal and state agencies on watershed connectivity, the National Fish Passage Program, river restoration, instream flow development and fishery monitoring and management. Central to our program is the ongoing partnerships with several Tribes, where we jointly work on fishery management and river restoration within Tribal lands. We also collaborate with Universities to continually refine our conservation and management strategies.Native fish of the West have faced significant challenges over the past century. Loss of habitat, commercial harvest, water diversions and the spread of non-native fish have resulted in extinctions and have caused many fish to be listed as endangered or threatened. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Service is working to restore these fish to their native waters.