INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. (AP) — It’s not that easy to catch crawfish in Lake Tahoe. Turns out, it may be harder to keep them.
Tahoe Lobster Co. owner Fred Jackson says someone’s been stealing his traps ever since he launched Tahoe’s first commercial crawfish harvest operation last year. Since fall, 160 traps have gone missing at a loss of more than $21,000, he said.
Jackson suspects it’s a disgruntled fisherman who fears the crawfish are a necessary food supply for trout and other sport fish. But he says the 4,500 pounds of crawfish he pulled from the lake last year put less than a 1 percent dent in Tahoe’s overall population, which one expert estimates to total about 7 million pounds.
“This year it hurt us pretty bad. We’ve sunk everything we had into this business,” Jackson told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
“What these guys are doing is craziness. It leaves me speechless. If they hit me again, it’s not sustainable. I’m about ready to throw down the towel. I don’t know what to do,” he said.
Another four sets of 10 traps disappeared late last month from their location off Tahoe’s northeast shore near Incline Village, Jackson said. Last week, he moved them from their previous location between the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino and Sand Harbor to a spot further south in the waters off Skunk Harbor.
Jackson knows the traps are being stolen because he marks their location with a GPS and aligns the traps with landmarks on the shore.
“It’s someone who thinks he’s a superhero, the X-Man of the sport fishing community,” he said. “They think they’re saving the trout fishery.”
Gene St. Denis, operator of the Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters Operator, said he doesn’t know who is stealing the traps but agrees recreational fishermen are probably responsible. He said half or more of the fish he reels in have crawfish in their stomachs.
“There have been rumblings in the background since he started this thing, but as far as figuring out who’s taking the traps, I don’t know. I think it’s really poor form to do something like that,” he said.
Sudeep Chandra, a limnologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said while the trout and mackinaw do feed on crawfish, Mysid shrimp compose the bulk of their caloric intake.
Nevada Department of Wildlife Spokesman Chris Healy said the agency’s seasonal law enforcement met with Jackson last week to get the GPS coordinates of the traps. The NDOW boat patrols, which are increased during the summer boating season, will watch for suspicious activity.
“We’re not going to be able to sit on his traps for him, but we will keep an eye on them,” Healy said. He encouraged anyone with information to call the Game Thief hotline at 1-800-992-3030.