Monster goldfish found in Tahoe ditch

Local kids in the Head Start program in Kings Beach found an unusually large goldfish lying dormant in a muddy, icy drainage ditch off Cutthroat Drive on March 14. They called Animal Control and Placer County Animal Control Officer Rick Stout came out and pulled the 8-inch fish out of the water and put it in a cooler.

Tessie the Goldfish in her new home at Hot Diggity Dog and Cat. | Kayla Anderson

Afraid that the fancy fin fish wouldn’t survive a trip to Truckee, he took it Hot Diggity Dog and Cat in Kings Beach. Officer Stout asked Hot Diggity Dog and Cat owner Michelle Okashima if she could temporarily look after the goldfish. She said she didn’t know if she could save it, but she would try.

Luckily, an aquatics representative was at the store at the time and gave her some advice on how to care for it. Okashima transferred Tessie into a 5-gallon tank and then into a 10-gallon aquarium, which she now lives in at Hot Diggity Dog and Cat.

Okashima started calling the fish Tessie because it’s the largest goldfish she’s ever seen and because she’s “just a Tahoe gal.”

Michelle Okashima holds up a regular goldfish net and the one needed for Tessie. | Kayla Anderson

The aquatics rep estimated that Tessie is about 10 years old based on her size.

“She eats everything and even tried to suck down the thermometer,” Okashima says of her new home. Living out in the wild for who knows how long, Tessie has learned how to scavenge for food and kept busy nibbling at the aquatic plants, fish pellets and bloodworms that Okashima fed her. Goldfish can live up to 40 years old, but their lifespans are usually cut short by being kept in tanks that are too small.

“Goldfish need 5 gallons of water per inch of fish,” says Okashima.

It is unclear where Tessie came from or how she got stuck in the pond. Officer Stout investigated the industrial park and homes from the top of Cutthroat to where she was found, and there have not been any signs of how she ended up in the drainage ditch. Officer Stout thinks that maybe she was grabbed from a private pond by a larger predator and then dropped.

However, Okashima thinks that a human had to have helped her, or it may have been an instance of aquarium dumping.

Michelle’s Okashima cat, Bouddica, paws at Tessie, even though she’s the size of Bouddica’s head. | Michelle Okashima

According to University of California, Davis professor Sue Williams, aquarium dumping accounts for one-third of the worst invasive species problems found in lakes worldwide. In 2013, Lake Tahoe made national headlines when giant goldfish were found in its blue waters, one goldfish measured 1½ feet long.

Abandoning animals can carry up to a $1,000 fine from Animal Control, but introducing an invasive species into Lake Tahoe can be up to a $5,000 fine.

Whatever the case with Tessie, it seems that she has found the perfect home at Hot Diggity Dog and Cat and people are rallying to keep her in Lake Tahoe.

Bouddica watches Tessie. | Michelle Okashima

“The community has really pulled together behind Tessie; I’m really proud of them,” says Okashima. Officer Stout added, “I think the crows would’ve found an easy meal. I’m glad the kids came together and called us. We want everything to live in its natural environment.”

Tessie now lives in a safe, clean environment- in the corner of Hot Diggity Dog and Cat. | Kayla Anderson

For advice on taking care of goldfish, please contact a local pet store. If you are looking for a new home for your fish, please consider posting on Craigslist or Facebook to find a safe home for your finned friend or contact a local pet store.

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Kayla Anderson
Kayla Anderson is a freelance writer, marketer and action sports enthusiast who has spent the last 10 years in North Lake Tahoe snowboarding, hiking and wake surfing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chico State University and loves being out on the lake as often as she can.