Oregon closes steelhead sanctuary off mouth of Deschutes to all fishing

August 8, 2018
Oregon closes steelhead sanctuary off mouth of Deschutes to all fishing

By Bill Monroe

Oregon has closed all fishing in the mouth of the Deschutes River and in a safety zone of the Columbia River around the Deschutes entry.

The closure, enacted at the request of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, begins Thursday and is likely to remain in effect through late September.

The closed area includes the Deschutes bay, between the freeway bridges, the boat ramp and the state park, up to the lower end of Moody Rapids, the first whitewater above the boat ramp.

Biologists for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the closure is intended to protect upriver-bound Columbia summer steelhead lingering in the Deschutes' cooler water as the Columbia warms up in summer heat.

Wednesday afternoon, the Columbia's water was 73 degrees at The Dalles Dam (downriver from the closure) and 68 at Moody Rapids, just upriver from its mouth.

Tucker Jones, the Oregon department's Columbia River program manager, said steelhead begin feeling uncomfortable at 68 degrees. Studies have shown higher death rates for steelhead and salmon caught and released in water warmer than 70.

Jones said the closure - all fishing, including for bass and walleye and catch-and-release angling - will probably continue until late-September, when water temperatures typically drop back to 68. However, the department also is carefully watching fall run sizes and could consider other factors before reopening the closed zone.

The closure is the second this year in Oregon and the first on Oregon's side of the Columbia.

Tributaries and their mouths were closed earlier this summer in the Umpqua River.

Washington has also closed a portion of the Columbia below the mouth of the Yakima River for the same reason.

Sanctuary closures are likely to become much more common as summer heat intensifies.

The Oregon department is reviewing potential sanctuary zones throughout the Columbia River and is expected to take proposals to the public for review in the fall, with decisions by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2019.

A quarter million migrating sockeye salmon are believed to have died in 2015 as the Columbia heated above 75 degrees.

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