The enthusiastic Tahoe Trout Bums, Trout Unlimited’s (TU) Truckee River Chapter, is a group of young anglers passionate about the river so integral to their lives. The Trout Bums are dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring native trout, salmon, and their watersheds through strong collaborations and community engagement. Emphasizing innovative, practical, and on-the-ground problem-solving, TU is restoring the world-class fisheries of our lesser-known western trout town and attracting more anglers to visit the region. When it became clear to them that the Little Truckee’s fishery was suffering from a lack of suitable habitat, they set out on a four year path to restore it.
The Little Truckee River Fish Habitat Improvement Project sought to reinvigorate populations of trout, native dace, sculpin, whitefish, and shiner whose habitats were degraded. This degradation also effected the habitats of wildlife populations such as the willow flycatcher, mule deer, goshawk, and bald eagles whose populations there were dwindling. TU fostered strong partnerships and received funding from influential organizations including Tahoe National Forest, National Forest Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, United States Forest Service and California Wildlife Conservation Board. They secured the final portion of project funding from the 2015 Nature Fund Grant Cycle facilitated by Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF). Only days later, the project broke ground and it was completed in a matter of weeks.
By introducing over 100 trees with rootwads and almost 250 large boulders, the project created deeper, more complex habitats for wild trout populations. The project created four new backwater habitats, two dozen spawning beds, and planted willows along the banks to reduce erosion and add shade to cool the water.
The impact has been immediate. Juvenile trout are using the backwaters and taking advantage of shade and shelter, and adult fish are utilizing the deeper pool adjacent to the root wads. This added complexity will continue to change the physical habitat and enhance the fishery. Other benefits include the restoration of up to 360 acres of the Boca-Stampede meadow, increased water storage and flood attenuation, and reduction of recreation caused impacts.
TU and Tahoe National Forest will track changes in the physical habitat over time and, after five years, compare results at each site pre and post restoration. With comprehensive pre-project data, they can compare it with a 2016 study in order to see how the fish have responded. The data will also help determine what habitats are most important at various seasons and life cycles.
TU will replicate this approach next year in partnership with Tahoe City PUD and the Truckee River Watershed Council on the Truckee River Stream Bank Stabilization project, another project partially funded by the TTCF Nature Fund. TU looks forward to driving similar projects in Truckee, Squaw Creek, Sequoia National Forest, and Eagle Lake, as well as meadow restoration projects. By intentionally approaching their mission through collaborations and partnerships, the Tahoe Trout Bums are shaping the future of Truckee’s watershed.