2019-2020 Steelhead Season Reintroduction Final Count

“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.Read More »

Upper Basin Steelhead Return Update

Believe it or not, if you look at the individual fish count numbers on the PGE website for past years, summer steelhead season in the upper most stretches of the Deschutes extends to the end of April.  Some of these fish really take their time to get to their final destination.  So, while the return season is not over, we are getting close.  As of March 6th, 53 steelhead have been passed above the dams into Lake Billy Chinook.  47 of those were recently counted via radio tags, 22 in the Crooked River, and 3 in the Crooked arm of Lake Billy Chinook, presumably getting ready to head up the river.  This once again shows the importance of the fish ladder at Opal Springs.

DRA Opinion Piece Response

The July 24th Source Weekly contained a guest column by Greg McMillan, president of the Deschutes River Alliance, that needs a response.  It is absolutely true that attempts to reintroduce salmon and steelhead into the upper Deschutes basin above Lake Billy Chinook have been extremely disappointing.  It is important to understand, however, that adult returns for salmon and steelhead have been plunging in the entire Columbia River basin and much of the Pacific Northwest.  The truth is that many anadromous fish runs are on the path to extinction due to habitat loss, dams, over harvest, hatcheries, and the heating of the Pacific which has led to the collapse of the food web in many areas.    This has nothing to do with local reintroduction efforts.Read More »

Lower Deschutes Fish Update

Rod French, ODFW’s Mid-Columbia District Fish Biologist, presented at last week’s Fisheries Workshop.  This annual presentation by ODFW has been largely unchanged for years, which is excellent news.  Trout have been surveyed in the lower Deschutes since the 1970s and there have been no observed negative impacts on them from the operation of the Selective Water Withdrawal tower in Lake Billy Chinook.  If anything, trout are larger and more abundant now, which is to be expected given the more natural temperature profile of the river.  Below are a lot more details, or take a look at Rod’s presentation.Read More »

Fisheries Workshop Highlights

The 25th annual Pelton Round Butte Fisheries Workshop was the past two days.  I have been going for years and, as usual, it was an overwhelming amount of information.  I plan to follow up with some of the presenters to get a better understanding of their data and hope to have more detailed posts soon.  In the meantime, here’s a quick list of the highlights from my perspective.Read More »

Artifishal: Not a Complete Picture

Last night I attended the Bend premier of Artifishal, “a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature”.  Produced by Patagonia and heavily promoted in the Pacific NW by the Native Fish Society, I found the film to be visually and emotionally powerful but lacking in nuance.  Clearly, hatcheries are a problem for wild fish, but they are only part of a complex web of issues.Read More »

PGE Water Quality Study

Portland General Electric’s long awaited lower Deschutes River water quality study was recently released.  At over 600 pages it took me some time to get through, here are my initial impressions.  This study is critically important to the ongoing effort to reintroduce anadromous fish into the upper Deschutes Basin and the operation of the Selective Water Withdrawal tower.  Also note that the Deschutes River Alliance’s lawsuit against PGE/CTWS (dismissed but under appeal) is based on allegations of water quality violations.  The author of the water quality study will present and answer questions at the upcoming Fisheries Workshop. Read More »