Lake Ops also serves the important function of spawning Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) for each year’s production. The Lake Operations Facility (Lake Ops) is located in Sutcliffe, NV on the western shore of Pyramid Lake. Lake operations, constructed in 1980, is primarily an acclimation facility. Pyramid Lake is the source of water for Lake Ops with an intake pipeline that runs east into Pyramid Lake that takes cold water from a depth of 50 feet. The LCT are reared in freshwater in the hatcheries; they are then acclimated to the more saline and alkaline lake water before being released into Pyramid Lake. After being reared to a minimum size of 4 inches, Cutthroat trout are transferred to Lake Ops for acclimation and stocking in the fall when water temperatures on the shore are cool enough for trout survival. Research shows fish stocked at this size can transfer from a diet of hatchery pellets to invertebrates at this stage for optimum survival.
In March, yearling cutthroat are placed into circular tanks. The outflow from these tanks is diverted down a spawning channel to the lake. Mature fish key on the scent of the juvenile, “attraction” fish and ascend the spawning channel where they can be sorted for spawning. This is the high point of the year and a main attraction for visitors. The fish entering the spawning channel are sorted by sex and maturity. Weekly spawns take place from early April through May until the annual production goal is met. On a normal year, Pyramid Lake Fisheries will take up to 1.5 million eggs and rear 800,000 to 1 million trout for release.