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Anglers fret about Tahoe crayfish harvest

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POSTED January 13, 2013 4:58 p.m.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (AP) — Anglers are expressing concern over expanded crayfish harvesting at Lake Tahoe, saying it will adversely affect fishing.

Gene St. Denis, operator of Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters, said mackinaw and other trout species rely on crayfish as a major food source, and regulators' approval of four more crayfish permits will put a dent in crayfish numbers.

He said 50 to 70 percent of the fish he catches have crayfish in their stomachs.

"They're a significant food source for the freshwater fish of Tahoe," he said. "Saying the crawdads aren't a primary food source for the fish isn't good science."

Other anglers say they're worried about snagging submerged crayfish traps or about currents that would shift the traps to deeper water and make them unrecoverable.

Tahoe Lobster Co. owner Fred Jackson told the Tahoe Daily Tribune ( ) that there are countless crayfish in Tahoe and the harvesting will not hurt trout.

He has scheduled a Feb. 19 meeting in Carson City, Nev., to address the concerns of anglers.

"The trout fishing community has their way of doing things and we have ours," Jackson said. "But science is on our side, and myth is on theirs."

His company became the first commercial fishing operation at Tahoe since the 1930s when it began crayfish harvesting last summer.

Last month, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's governing board approved four crayfish permits. The agency had already issued a permit to Jackson, and is processing two more.

Sudeep Chandra, a University of Nevada, Reno limnologist, said while trout feed on crayfish, Mysid shrimp represent the bulk of their intake.

He estimates 7 million pounds of crayfish are crawling in Tahoe. Tahoe Lobster Co. has captured about 4,500 pounds so far, according to Planning Agency officials.

"Unless the commercial operations really ramp up, there's pretty much no way you could eliminate the crayfish population in the lake," Chandra told the Tribune.

Crayfish and mackinaw and brown trout are all non-native species at Tahoe.

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