ODFW to ban steelhead fishing amid low returns

September 30, 2021
ODFW to ban steelhead fishing amid low returns

Poor returns of steelhead to the Columbia River Basin this year prompted the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to extend a fishing closure on the Deschutes River through the end of the year. Coho salmon angling is also temporarily banned to support fish habitat.

The current forecast for steelhead above Bonneville Dam indicates that this will be one of the lowest steelhead runs on record, according to a release from the ODFW.

Lower Columbia River coho salmon and steelhead are listed under the endangered species act. Both populations and others have been declining in the Lower Columbia River Basin due to multiple factors, including habitat loss, high harvest levels and the effect of hydropower operations. Rising ocean water temperatures are also believed to have had a negative impact on fish populations.

According to a study released by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, the average stream temperature in neighboring Washington state is projected to warm by between 3.6 and 10.5 degrees by the end of the century.

This is primarily due to rising air temperature and glacier and snowpack loss.

ODFW monitors fish passing over Sherars Falls, the final waterfall along the Deschutes River, and the Deschutes run is mirroring those elsewhere in the Columbia River Basin.

Yancy Lind, a Bend area angler, agrees with the ODFW decision. He says it will protect wild steelhead from further declines.

“The record low return numbers are simply depressing,” said Lind. “I’m thankful that ODFW is doing what they can to help with steelhead survival. I hope my fellow anglers honor these emergency regulations so that they do not need to become permanent.”

ODFW closed steelhead angling earlier this month. Jason Seals, district biologist for the Lower Deschutes, said extending the closure will ensure the protection of steelhead for the remainder of this year’s run.

“We understand this has an impact on anglers and local communities, and it’s a tough decision, but the right one in this case,” said Seals. “We appreciate anglers understanding and support for these actions as necessary to help future generations of Deschutes steelhead.”

In addition to the steelhead closure, ODFW is also closing angling for coho salmon early. The department said this will help to reduce angling impacts when fishing with similar gear types.

Angling will remain open for trout in the Deschutes River from Moody Rapids upstream to the Pelton Regulating Dam as stated in the 2021 Sportfishing Regulations.

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