Brett Hodgson retired from ODFW last year after spending decades as a fish biologist in Prineville and Bend. In my experience, he the most knowledgeable source of information on local fisheries issues and stays active as a volunteer with ODFW. I called him yesterday to get his take on the plans to reduce flows in the Crooked River to 10 cfs next month. It was an interesting conversation, keep reading for more.
Brett does not believe that flows into the Crooked River from Prineville Reservoir have ever been lowered to 10 cfs in the summer and certainly not since 1980. He confirmed my supposition that flows that low will be catastrophic to fish. There may not be a 100% kill, small pockets of juvenile fish may survive, but it will take many years of good flows for the fishery to rebound to the level anglers have become accustomed.
Brett helped with ODFW’s annual electrofishing survey of the Crooked this week. It showed that the river is already hurting from low winter flows of only 50 cfs as required by the Habitat Conservation Plan and Brett is skeptical that 50 cfs can be met this winter. Note that ODFW believes that 80 cfs is the minimum flow required in the Crooked River for viable trout habitat.
Brett said that redband trout numbers are down significantly compared to last year and they are concentrated in the upper most stretches below the dam. Whitefish numbers, however, are “through the roof” throughout the Wild & Scenic section. Brett speculated that whitefish had better survival rates during the low, cold flows last winter. Neither species are adapted to survive the high temperatures that will likely occur starting in mid August.
Brett stated that in 20 years of sampling, ODFW has never found a wild, native redband trout in the Crooked over 17″ in the Crooked. Redbands larger than that are found in the river, but they are fish that were planted in Prineville Reservoir, grew to full size, and then made their way out through the dam. There is a greater number than average of these hatchery fish currently in the river due to the low level in Prineville Reservoir, making passage at the bottom of the reservoir more accessible. These large fish will most likely be the first to die when the river is lowered to 10 cfs.