2021 FALL FISH RESCUE AT LAVA ISLAND

This article was published on: 08/31/21 3:19 PM

BE READY – BE FLEXIBLE – STAY TUNED!

The event date has not yet been set. Due to drought and water shortages, we need to be ready for an early rescue.

Why a fish rescue?

The Deschutes River is the lifeline of Central Oregon, for our communities, our fish and wildlife, and for our growers. However, because of the overallocation of the Deschutes River, Wickiup Reservoir was constructed in the 1930’s to provide water for nearly half the farms we see today. Junior water rights holders, North Unit Irrigation District, pulls over 70% of its water from what is stored in Wickiup Reservoir.

So each fall, after the snow has melted for the summer and the growing season comes to an end, the discharge out of Wickiup Reservoir is decreased to store winter precipitation for the next growing season. The Deschutes River decreases in flow, causing various side-channels to disconnection from the main channel and drain. Lava Island Fall is a lava flow that creates both a beautiful waterfall and a lava dam between the main and side channel of the river. Fall and winter flows are too low to overcome the lava dam, necessitating a rescue of the many fish housed within the 1.5-mile side channel. Because the lava channel is porous, rescues need to act fast as pools drain quickly. The timing of the when “flows are too low” is a moving target, but has been successfully hit each year with the grace of flexible volunteers and a dedicated team ready for weeks to jump into action.

Why four days of rescue?

In 2020, our team found that spreading the event across multiple days allowed for a more successful rescue with less stress on our precious fish. We are still at the mercy of weather, natural river flow, and water management via dams and irrigation districts, but our team is directly connected with local experts and water managers to maximize the success of the event. The strategy focuses on starting the rescue while water still trickles into the side-channel, fish can be herded to larger pools, out of rocky regions, and back into the main Deschutes River. The fish collected within the larger pools can be rescued with greater success. In 2020, our volunteers and rescue team relocated over 17,000 fish from the drying Lava Island side-channel back to the main Deschutes River.

Sooner this year?

Due to drought, extremely high temperatures, and recent changes to river management with the implementation of the Deschutes Habitat Conservation Plan, we find ourselves exploring new territory. Reservoirs levels are not filling, and completely draining sooner and sooner in the year. We would rather be prepared for an earlier rescue and move it out, than miss the event. Historically we could confidently predict the rescue to occur the second or third week of October, but this year we plan to be ready and on-call as soon as August. Sign up for email and text alerts to stay informed.

Four Day Event Schedule – Specific Dates TBD


Day 1 – PROFESSIONALS ONLY- NOT OPEN TO PUBLIC VOLUNTEERS YET

Where to meet:  Base 1: Follow directions to Meadow Day Use Area (located on road FS-4600. 100). On arrival, follow Fish Rescue signage.
What Time: Rescue will run from 8 am – 4 pm.
What to bring: Bring your waders if you wish to catch or count fish, or bring hiking boots to help with hiking the fish. And bring lunch, snacks, water, mask, and appropriate clothes for the weather.

Day 3 – PROFESSIONALS AND GRACIOUS VOLUNTEERS  (THAT MEANS YOU!)

Where to meet: Base 2: Lava Island Day Use Area (day-use loop, not the trailhead).
What Time: Rescue will run from 8 am – 4 pm.
What to bring: Bring hiking boots to help with hiking the fish. And bring snacks, water, mask, and appropriate clothes for the weather.
Day 4 – PROFESSIONALS AND GRACIOUS VOLUNTEERS  (THAT MEANS YOU!)
Where to meet: Base 2: Lava Island Day Use Area (day-use loop, not the trailhead)
What Time: Rescue will run from 8 am – 4 pm.
What to bring: Bring hiking boots to help with hiking the fish. And bring snacks, water, mask, and appropriate clothes for the weather.

The Deschutes River side channel that runs along the west side of Lava Island (and the Deschutes River Trail) becomes disconnected and dry during low winter flows.

Head towards Mt. Bachelor on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, depending on the target Volunteer Station (details below), turn left following directions to Meadow Park (Base 1) or directions to Lava Island Day Use (Base 2).

Where to go on which day:

This rescue will be spread across 4 days, with different teams, goals, and focus areas for each day.
Sign up for text/email alerts so we can keep you informed on when and where we need help.

Calling for volunteers with experience handling fish to help relocate stranded fish
as flows in the river drop for storage season.

Recall that with the wind-down of the growing-season, the irrigation districts of Central Oregon reduce the river flow in the Upper Deschutes from Wickiup Reservoir to Bend to refill the reservoir for the following irrigation season. The Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) has partnered with the Deschutes River Conservancy, the Deschutes Redbands Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Coalition for the Deschutes and dozens of volunteers from the community to roll up their sleeves in a collaborative fish rescue. The effort involves collecting fish stranded in pools along a side channel of the Deschutes River near Lava Island Falls, disconnected as a result of the low flows, and relocating them to the main river channel.

>>>>But we are in need of volunteers! We need you!<<<<

What’s new in 2021? The rescue will look different this year, and that’s a good thing. This year we are adjusting our strategy to improve the efficacy of the rescue and the clarity of event details to our volunteers. Unlike in previous years, children are not encouraged to come, but instead, a focus is placed on collecting individuals with experience handling fish. Our first goal is to save the fish and we invite you to join us to reach that goal.

When: Because of the dry fall, the event is projected to be sooner than in previous years. Once details are clear they will be announced, please sign up for email and text alerts above to receive updates.

What will you be doing: Volunteers will take part in one of the following three tasks depending on their skills and experience handling fish: (1) wade into the pools to help capture fish, (2) hike the buckets of fish from the pools to the river, or (3) help identify and count the fish as they are returned to the main channel of the Deschutes.

What to bring: Bring your waders if you wish to catch or count fish, or bring hiking boots to help with hiking the fish. And bring snacks, water, and appropriate clothes for the weather.

Where is it: Emails will be sent out prior to the event with parking details and volunteer directions. Directions will outline bases where volunteers should meet.

There will be two main bases, as follows:

Base 1: Follow directions to Meadow Day Use Area (located on road FS-4600. 100). On arrival, follow Fish Rescue signage to base one.

Base 2: Lava Island Day Use Area (day-use loop, not the trailhead)

How do you stay in the loop for this moving event? We will email you information leading up to the event but email will not be our primary source of outreach with last-minute changes and details (which are inherent to this type of event). Instead, this year we will be using text message alerts that will direct you to urgent/last minute updates on this webpage.

We will be using text messages alerts to communicate last-minute changes, be sure to share this information when you sign up. Please use the “CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP” link below to provide your phone number and email to get event updates. 

For more information contact us at FallFishRescue@gmail.com