RANCHO CORDOVA --
California Fish and Wildlife officials are saying the unexpected warm water in the American River is becoming an emergency for the fish hatchery that supplies 700 thousand trout to streams and lakes in Northern California.
The American River fish hatchery just downstream of Nimbus Dam has been evacuating fingerlings and catchable sized trout to facilities with cooler water or releasing several months ahead of schedule.
Higher water temperatures for the river was expected this summer because of low reservoir levels and the lack of snow that normally provides cold water during the hot months.
"The water temperatures rose to a little more than expected with the hot spell last week, and now they're up to 70 degrees here and that's way too hot, we got to get these fish out," said Jay Rowan, acting hatchery supervisor for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This is the second year in a row that the hatchery has had to evacuate its fish population. It has never had to do it in any year before which is a statement about the severity of California's drought.
"In the last few days it's definitely gone to emergency status, "said Rowan.
The hatchery has recently put a new indoor hatchery facility on line which uses chilled water to hatch and grow trout. But it doesn't have nearly the capacity to keep all of its fish cool. They begin to get stressed and die when temperatures reach 72 to 74 degrees.
In the short term the evacuation and early fish release is good for anglers in the areas high lakes and streams because there will be more fish than normal to catch. The downside is that there will be fewer fish to release in the fall and early spring next year.
It well make for a stressful time for hatchery workers as well.
"For the next few weeks its going to be really busy, we're going to be scrambling to get these fish out as quickly as possible," said Rowan.