Dead fish removed from Lake Davis

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PORTOLA -- California officials have completed the grim task of collecting fish killed in last month's poisoning of Lake Davis to exterminate the northern pike.

California Department of Fish and Game crews gathered nearly 50,000 pounds of fish since Sept. 21, when 16,000 gallons of a toxic chemical were poured into the Sierra Nevada reservoir.

Northern pike -- which wildlife experts believe were carried to Lake Davis by anglers from the Midwest or Great Lakes in the 1980s -- decimated the lake's famous trophy trout and tourist industry.

Biologists in recent years have grown increasingly concerned that if the pike escaped the lake, they would also devastate California's weakened salmon and steelhead populations.

California first poisoned Lake Davis in 1997 but pike reappeared 18 months later, either reintroduced illegally by a rogue angler or having survived the first poisoning.

"This time, we continue to monitor the lake and keep our fingers crossed," department spokesman Steve Martarano told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We did everything possible, and we continue to hope that we did enough.

"We're not claiming victory yet. But we're hopeful we got rid of the pike this time," he said.

Last month, wildlife officials used a new formulation of liquid Rotenone, an aquatic insecticide that has successfully killed northern pike in other reservoirs.

Once the poison can't be detected, the lake and its tributaries will be restocked with more than 950,000 trout.

Martarano said northern pike accounted for about 6 percent of the dead fish removed. Eighty-two percent of the dead fish were bullhead, a type of catfish, and less than 0.5 percent were trout.

"We found mostly big trout," Martarano said. "We believe the smaller trout were eaten by the pike."

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