The endangered cui-ui is a large species of sucker found only in Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Cui-ui are a slow-growing species that feeds mainly on algae and plankton, living in the still waters of the lake and migrating into the Truckee River to spawn in the springtime. Unfortunately, the Truckee River was dammed up starting in the early 1900's and its water used for agriculture, public consumption, and, of course, golf courses. This used up all of the water so that the cui-ui were never able to ascend the river to spawn, and initiated a prolonged fight over water rights that continues today.
The cui-ui is now protected, and hatchery programs and water allotments have succeeded in pulling this fish back from the brink of extinction. It has only survived the environmental destruction it has faced because of its longevity, allowing it to survive long periods without replenishing its populations while the allies of the cui-ui fought to get its water back.
The cui-ui were an important component of traditional life for the Northern Paiute. The Paiute band that lived near Pyramid lake called themselves "Cuiyui Ticutta", which means "The Cui-ui Eaters" in their language. Other Northern Paiute bands converged on the Pyramid Lake area during the annual spawning run to share in the harvest. This tribe was instrumental in restoring water flows to the Truckee River so that the cui-ui could survive; without their strong and determined intervention, this amazing fish would most likely be extinct.
Hopefully, someday the cui-ui population will become robust enough to allow for patient and resourceful anglers to catch and release them. Until then, we can only try to support the restoration of natural water flow to the Truckee River, hoping that if we do so, these fish will remain a part of our american landscape forever.