“We have met the enemy, and he is us”. – Pogo
Adult steelhead start arriving in the Upper Deschutes during the summer and continue through the following April. (Steelhead are amazing.) Today, Portland General Electric released their April adult fish count for the Pelton Trap near the bottom of the re-regulating dam. A total of 57 adult steelhead returned during the 2019-2020 season. 22 of them were released as fry into the upper basin and 35 were released as smolts. There’s no denying that 10 years in, this is a disappointment.
Of course, the debate will be why the numbers remain so low. The bottom-line for me is that steelhead populations are plummeting throughout the Columbia Basin, including the Deschutes. While we all would like to find a culprit, it is not PGE, it is us. Columbia Basin anadromous fish are harmed by a host of factors: global warming is destroying the food chain in the ocean, dams remove habitat and impede migration, over fishing, pollution, cross-breeding and competition with hatchery fish, etc. Without large scale reform, wild steelhead are on the path to extinction and hatchery fish could soon follow.