The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on Friday plans to release approximately 600 rainbow trout that were rescued from the lower Merced River a year and a half ago.
In the summer of 2014, water flowing from Lake McClure was too warm for these fish in the Merced River to survive and emergency action was taken to rescue 60 adult rainbow trout from the river between Crocker-Huffman Dam and the Snelling Road Bridge in Merced County.
“As a general rule, CDFW does not normally rescue fish unless they are a threatened or endangered species,” said Greg Kollenborn, CDFW Senior Hatchery Manager. “In this case, the drought forced us to take action to preserve an important species in Central California.”
The fish were transferred to CDFW’s Merced River Fish Hatchery near Snelling and housed in temperature-controlled fish-rearing tanks that were purchased with emergency drought funds made available by the Legislature and Governor. Keeping the fish in these tanks was also a precautionary measure to prent the spread of disease to fish in the hatchery.
CDFW originally intended to release the fish in the winter of 2014 but the ongoing drought and high water temperatures forced a delay of the release. The fish remained in the hatchery for an extra year, where they spawned and produced hundreds of offspring.
“In 18 months we went from 60 to 600 fish,” said Kollenborn. “Releasing them now will give local anglers a great opportunity to catch some nice fish this summer.”
Once the fish are released, CDFW scientists will monitor and survey the river to monitor the health of the trout populations.