The California Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully transferred rainbow trout rescued two summers ago. It's a process that took careful planning. For 18 months, the Merced River Hatchery was home to dozens of rainbow trout rescued from the Merced river.
"When the drought started to get severe and temps started to become excessively for rainbow trout," Dean Marston with the department said. "The department made the decision to do a fish rescue effort."
Using emergency drought funds made available by Governor Brown and the legislature, temperature-controlled tanks were purchased for the hatchery. Over time, the fish they pulled out of the water were spawned. The 60 they rescued eventually produced hundreds of their own.
"We were uncertain if they would survive in a captive rearing environment the fish have to learn how to live in a new environment," Marston said. "Because they had to take new feed."
Now that conditions have improved, scientists have determined the water is safe enough for their return to wildlife. "We're gonna start at the top with the females in this tank," Marston said.
Crews worked to safely pull them from those tanks into bins for their short road trip to the river. Net by net, crews slowly and carefully helped the fish into their habitat. For many of the fish, this was their first taste of freedom. "It's quite a process and quite shocking for them to go from their safe home into a truck get back into the open river," Andrew Hughan with the department said.
Now that they are back in the water, scientists will continue to survey the river to monitor the health of the trout populations.