Deschutes Wild Steelhead Update

Unfortunately, as of the end of September things still look pretty bleak for wild fish this season.  The trap at Sherars Falls has captured a total of 44 wild steelhead.  Only 3 of these have made it to the the trap at the bottom of the Pelton Round Butte complex (Lake Billy Chinook, etc.).  Two of those are actually hatchery steelhead that were released above Lake Billy Chinook but did not have their adipose fins clipped.  As I detailed in a series of posts starting here, these fish could be on a path to extinction in the not too distant future.

How does catch and release affect steelhead?

I was wandering around various angling conservation websites and came across “How does catch and release affect steelhead?” on the Wild Steelhead Coalition website.  It was a summary of a study done on the Bulkley River in British Columbia.  The primary takeaways for me are that I will continue to avoid steelheading on the Deschutes for now and I need to start using a net.  Like many fly anglers, I land a steelhead by bringing it close enough to grab by the tail before removing the hook.  The study showed that “tailed” fish had higher levels of stress than netted fish.Read More »

Steelhead in Crisis, Time for a Management Change?

The following is a guest column I submitted to the Bend Bulletin a while back but which has not been published.  It is a summary of some recent blog posts that I believe are worth further exposure in a timely manner.

Last year was one of the poorest on record for steelhead in the Deschutes.  After some initial optimism for a modest rebound, the forecast for returns this season has been lowered to be even worse.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has now closed the entire Columbia River and lower John Day River to steelhead retention.  ODFW went further and asked anglers to avoid steelhead fishing altogether for the remainder of the year.  Wild steelhead are currently on a path to extinction in the Deschutes and entire Columbia Basin.Read More »

Reintroduction: Time for a Change in Strategy

After 10 years of effort it is clear that the current approach to reintroducing anadromous fish into the upper Deschutes Basin above the Pelton Round Butte project is not producing acceptable results.  Fisheries managers acknowledge this but often state that it will take more time.  They reply that it has been over 50 years since these fish were cut off from their traditional spawning grounds and reintroduction is a complex problem.  This is true, but I believe the current dire state of steelhead returns to the Deschutes River should provide impetus to take bolder action.  This is a long post, but worth reading if you care about the future of steelhead in the Deschutes River.Read More »

Cooler, cleaner water?

W 8.11.18 27in

I got back from my latest fishing excursion (that’s a measured 27” wild, native rainbow trout) and saw The Bulletin published an editorial last Friday about the Deschutes River Alliance’s lawsuit being dismissed.  What bothered me in their editorial was the use of the DRA’s tagline of cooler, cleaner water for the Deschutes.  The facts on this topic are well established.  The quantity of water in Lake Billy Chinook is not sufficient to keep the lower Deschutes “cooler” for the entire summer and “cleaner” is largely a function of agricultural and urban water runoff.  Read More »

DRA Lawsuit Dismissed

The Deschutes River Alliance has argued for years that PGE/CTWS’s attempt to reintroduce anadromous fish into the upper Deschutes Basin has harmed the Deschutes River below the Pelton Round Butte complex of dams.  As part of their advocacy the DRA brought a lawsuit against PGE/CTWS claiming that the project violated the Clean Water Act.  On Monday the suit was dismissed for lacking “material fact”.  Read More »

SWW juvenile outmigration

Most anadromous smolts outmigrate in the spring.  While a few stragglers may still move through the system over the remainder of the year, at this point we have a pretty complete count of this year’s totals for fish moving from the Crooked, Metolius, and upper Deschutes rivers to the Selective Water Withdrawal tower in Lake Billy Chinook where they are captured and then released into the lower Deschutes.

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

CHS

21,261

19,071

15,418

16,997

29,785

19,965

STS

2,733

2,127

3,702

4,024

10,708

8,881

SOC

25,265

155,031

38,702

49,497

439,458

47,392

CHS are chinook, STS are steelhead, and SOC are sockeye.  There’s some good news and some bad news in these figures.Read More »