Researchers are finding a growing number of giant goldfish in Lake Tahoe, and questioning the ecological impact the fish could have on the lake.
Christine Ngai, of the University of Nevada, Reno, was among the researchers who found the first goldfish during a survey of invasive fish in the lake.
“You just see this bright golden orange thing starting to float up, and you’re like, what is that? And then you take a net and you scoop it up and you’re like, it’s a goldfish,” Ngai said of the initial discovery.
Ngai had heard stories from fishing guides about large goldfish, but they were the first to document the species.
“Then when I saw it -- I was like, oh ... it exists," Ngai added.
Ngai said the crew was surprised not just to find the fish, but to see how big they are.
"It’s not your average-size goldfish. So, you’re like, is that real? Oh, it's real," she told KCRA 3. "It’s alive.”
Researchers trawling for invasive fish species found a goldfish that was nearly 1 1/2 feet long and weighed more than 4 pounds. They're concerned about the fish's threat to the ecosystem of Lake Tahoe, LiveScience.com reported Thursday.
University of Nevada Reno researchers found "a nice corner where there's about 15 other goldfish," environmental scientist Sudeep Chandra told LiveScience. "It's an indication that they were schooling and spawning."
The fish are one of several invasive warm-water species in the lake that are consuming native aquatic life such as trout, researchers said. In addition, they excrete nutrients that spur the growth of algae that can muddy Tahoe's clear waters.
It isn't known how the goldfish got into the lake, but researchers said they were likely dumped by aquarium owners -- a common problem that threatens native wildlife in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Ngai and other researchers from UNR, UC Davis, and the California State Fish and Game regularly survey fish using a specialized boat with electrical probes extending from it, which temporarily stun nearby fish.
They had been counting largemouth bass, which are a more prolific invasive species.