Fish tested for contamination |

Fish tested for contamination

Who says scientific research can’t be fun?

Between now and Christmas, researchers hope to catch some 500 fish from Englebright Lake and the Yuba River to test for contamination from mercury left behind by gold mining.

The research – which will include fly fishing for trout in the South and Middle Yuba rivers – is part of a $6.7 million study to see if it makes sense to restore salmon and steelhead trout above Englebright Dam, possibly by tearing it down.

Funding is from Calfed, the Bay Delta restoration effort.

“With regard for all these grandiose plans they’ve got for Englebright, we’re saying wait a minute, does this make a lot of sense?” said Darrell Slotton, the University of California at Davis research ecologist hired by Calfed to catch fish.

For example, researchers will test for mercury in juvenile rainbow trout above Englebright Dam “as an indicator of what steelhead and salmon fry (juvenile fish) would be up against if they were allowed back into the watershed,” Slotton said.

Researchers will also try to put a dollar value on sport fishing at Lake Englebright.

In 2000, Nevada County officials advised anglers to eat only one meal a month of bass caught in Englebright or the South Yuba, or one meal a week of trout, channel catfish, green sunfish, bluegill or other fish.

But anglers would only know that by spotting a warning poster in a bait shop, or by checking the county’s Web site.

Slotton said the new research should be detailed enough to allow state officials to decide whether to issue fish consumption advisories for Englebright and the South Yuba.

Those advisories have a wider audience – they’re listed in the back pages of the sport fishing guidebook given to everyone who buys a California fishing license.

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