The Deschutes River 2017/2018 summer steelhead season still has a few weeks left but returns have been bleak. As of the end of January 2018 only 13 upper basin origin steelhead have been captured in the Pelton trap a little upstream from the Warm Springs Bridge, and none in December. This will likely be the lowest return year since upper basin returns began in 2011.
Historically, the majority of steelhead were captured in the trap after January 1 but that does not seem to be occurring this year. (It always amazes me that fish entering the Deschutes in July could wait 6-8 months to move to their spawning grounds.) Eight of the 13 fish have been radio detected at Opal Springs Dam at the mouth of the Crooked River but none have entered the trap and been transported upstream.
This is terribly disappointing and follows the overall trend for all Columbia Basin steelhead which are clearly in serious trouble due to dams, habitat loss/degradation, over-fishing, and poor ocean conditions. At the same time, 2017 saw small but improving returns of chinook and sockeye into the upper Deschutes basin. There is some hope for better steelhead returns in the future resulting from improved smolt out-migrations which hit record highs last spring. Volitional fish passage at Opal Springs allowing adults access to historically important spawning beds on the Crooked also offers hope for improvement.