Local Fishing Report – Fall Fly Patterns

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The McKenzie and Willamette Rivers received a “freshen up” last weekend. While rivers came up quickly they came right back down into great shape. Water temperature have dropped a bit but fishing has remained excellent.

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This time of year is so great, light winds, good hatches, and salmon spawning in the McKenzie make it one of the very best windows of fishing each year.

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Fishing has been good all day. In the a.m hours fish seem to be keying on larger dries. Nocturnal Short Winged Stoneflies still fresh in there memory banks. Mid-day a smaller jigged nymph or adult caddis pattern has been working well. In the afternoon Parachute Adams, Blue Winged Olive patterns, and then moving towards evening October Caddis begin flopping about and you can get out the big orange patterns.

Best Flies for current conditions:

Chubby Chernobyl #6 and #8 tan, gold, orange
Parachute Adams size #10-14
Brown and Tan Elk Hair Caddis #10-16
Blue Winged Olive #18-20
Dally’s Tailwater Jig
Orange Elk Hair Caddis #8-14
Morrish Foam October Caddis #8

Posted in Fishing Reports, Lower Willamette, McKenzie River, Middle Fork Willamette River fishing | Leave a comment

Imagine spending a week fishing at the Babine Steelhead Lodge in 2022 for just $100!

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From Native Fish Society

Imagine it, you’re sitting in your cozy cabin along the amazing Babine River in beautiful British Columbia, reminiscing on the week-long fishing adventure of a lifetime you just experienced, new friends you met, delicious food you ate, stunning nature you explored…and all for $100! Well, these dreams could be reality thanks to an anonymous donor – a supporter of both Native Fish Society and Deschutes River Alliance – who has generously donated their Babine Steelhead Lodge spot to our organizations. To leverage this donation, DRA and NFS have decided to raffle off this prime spot and use the funding to help fuel our shared missions of reviving the Lower Deschutes River.

In partnership with Deschutes River Alliance, we recently kicked off the Bakeoven Watershed Rehabilitation Project – a collaborative endeavor in a dedicated effort to remove invasive blackberries that decrease water flow in Bakeoven Creek in Maupin, Oregon.

Ticket sales are currently available for purchase NOW through October 14th, 2021. Remember, only 250 tickets will be sold! Each entry is $100 and the lucky winner will be drawn on Friday, October 15th, at 3pm.

All proceeds from this raffle will support the Native Fish Society and Deschutes River Alliance’s collaborative conservation project to revive the lower Deschutes.
Learn more about this amazing and unique project HERE. If you can’t fit a trip to the Babine into your 2022 schedule, consider donating to this joint project by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand side of the raffle page HERE

PURCHASE RAFFLE TICKETS HERE.

Details:

1 angler / *2022 Dates – specific week to be determined / Guided fishing on the Babine River

*Does not include travel to Smithers, B.C., taxes, gratuities, or licenses.

Raffle tickets on sale: September 13 – October 14, 2021

Drawing: October 15, 2021 @ 3pm

**Please Note** Throughout the Pacific Northwest, our native steelhead runs are in a precarious state. When purchasing an NFS/DRA Babine For A Benjamin Raffle ticket, please keep in mind that the trip will depend on adult returns in the Skeena Basin meeting annual escapement goals. As always, thank you for your continued support for the revival of wild, native fish, and free-flowing rivers. We appreciate you!

Posted in Coastal Steelhead Fishing, Fly Fishing Contests, Oregon Conservation News | Leave a comment

What Happens To Native Trout Fisheries When We Remove Competing Hatchery Stock – The McKenzie River Example

McKenzie River Rainbow Trout

Two of the smartest fish bio guys I know collaborated to create the article below. Dave Thomas and Arlen Thomasen ( author of the best bug book out there “Bugwater“) also were participants/leaders in the McKenzie River Trout study referenced within the article.

What Happens To Native Trout Fisheries When We Remove Competing Hatchery Stock – The McKenzie River Example
By David Thomas and Arlen Thomason

The Problem:

The native “Redside” rainbow trout of the McKenzie River was an established destination fishery well before World War II. Post-war, ODFW began a program of outplanting out-of-basin hatchery origin fish in the river. In 1963, following their construction of several flood control dams on the river, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) built a new trout hatchery adjacent to Leaburg Dam (38.8 river miles above the confluence of the McKenzie River with the Willamette River). The rationale for the hatchery was to mitigate for the losses to the Willamette Basin fisheries caused by the dams. Over the years various stocks of rainbow trout were utilized in the hatchery’s outplanting program. Production was largely managed to meet demands from local anglers rather than any established limits regarding the impact of the hatchery stock on the native Redside population.
Though there had been no systematic population count, local anglers reported that they were encountering increasingly diminished numbers of Redsides, possibly due to interbreeding with or competition from hatchery trout. To partially assuage these concerns, the hatchery stock was converted to a mostly sterile (trisomy) strain. This likely answered any concern regarding gene-flow from hatchery rainbows reducing fitness of the wild spawning fish, but did not speak to possible competition between the native and hatchery stocks for resources (food and habitat). As in any situation where data are scarce, there was considerable disagreement among the fishing communities regarding what, if anything, should be done regarding the status of the Leaburg Hatchery trout program.

Citizen Science:

In 2009, ODFW announced that it would cease outplanting hatchery fish in a 5.1 mile section of the Lower McKenzie River. Seeing an opportunity to finally estimate the impact of hatchery stock, a group of conservation minded anglers, with cooperation from the local ODFW staff, designed a program to measure the effects of the hatchery stock removal on resident fish populations. Financing for study costs came from donations from local clubs and conservation organizations. From 2010 through 2013, 108 trained volunteer anglers floated and fished the study section using a “mark and recapture” model to estimate the numbers and physical distribution of species. The study involved 277 angling trips for 2,558.5 hours on the river.

Results:

After two years from the cessation of hatchery fish planting, the density of native Redside trout in the study section had more than doubled; at the end of the fourth year the increase was more than 300%. In parallel, the number of native spawning cutthroat trout also increased, but to a lesser degree. Interestingly, a parallel study by ODFW using electrofishing methodology came to the same result regarding the proportional changes in the fishery.
As a consequence of this study result, ODFW has continued to refrain from planting hatchery trout in this 5.1 mile section of the river, and the native Redside fishery there has recovered. However, the study results have not resulted in removal of all hatchery trout outplants from the rest of the river, although the study results suggest that it would be possible to quickly reestablish a flourishing native fishery throughout the McKenzie absent the hatchery program The points of resistance for such a wholesale change in managing the fishery are multiple. For instance, some members of the local fishing guides organization feel that the loss of catch and kill hatchery fish would lead to fewer fishing customers, and a resulting reduction of their income. Also, ODFW relies on fishing license sales for a good portion of its fishery management operating budget, and the loss of the abundantly available hatchery stock might conceivably result in a reduction of fishing license purchases. Moreover, the hatchery programs are largely paid for by the Corps as part of its Upper Willamette Basin fishery mitigation obligation. Put another way, these hatchery fish are “free fish” to Oregon, so ODFW works very hard to assure that the programs continued. Finally, ODFW’s Fish Division budget and operations are heavily weighted towards the management and production of hatchery fish. For these reasons, questions regarding the advisability of curtailing hatchery programs are often met with considerable pushback.

Sources:

Study Website: http://www.mckenzietroutstudy.org/
Final Report: http://www.mckenzietroutstudy.org/reports/
For a history and consequences of Hatchery trout see: Anders Halverson’s An Entirely Synthetic Fish. Published by Yale University Press, 2010.

Posted in McKenzie River, Oregon Conservation News | 3 Comments

Columbia & Snake River Wild Steelhead in Crisis

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From The Conservation Angler

Compelling commentary on the Columbia River’s Wild Steelhead Crisis from Rich Simms, co-founder of the Wild Steelhead Coalition. Read it HERE.

Dean Finnerty, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelheaders United! Read it HERE.

Both organizations make the case to close some steelhead fisheries amid record-low returns, as well as issue a call to action to anglers who are passionate about wild steelhead.

Check out the latest Columbia-Snake steelhead return data in TCA’s most recent update and action report HERE.

Oregon steelhead guide Jeff Hickman cancels entire Deschutes season out of concern for fishing impacts on extremely dismal wild steelhead returns. Read the Hatch story HERE.

What can you do? Support conservation groups like The Conservation Angler, Wild Steelheaders United, Wild Steelhead Coalition and Native Fish Society. These groups are fighting hard for wild fish at all levels and need our help to keep up the fight.

Posted in Oregon Conservation News, Summer Steelhead | Leave a comment

Middle Fork of the Willamette River Fishing Report

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We decided to give the Middle Fork of the Willamette a shot this past Tuesday. I knew the river would be low and I knew there was potential for smoke. Both bore out true of course… Driving up HWY 58 I could see the smoke clinging to the Black Canyon section of the Middle Fork.

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Looking down river from the boat launch at Black Canyon Campground is was clear in Eugene. A brisk wind followed and blew most of the smoke out of the river valley. The smoke ended up not being much of issue except for near the confluence of the North Fork of the Middle Fork.

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Fishing was active not long after putting in my raft at Greenwaters Park. I was very happy I did not bring the drift boat as the first rapid out of the gate would have had me walking the boat down the river. Instead I rubbed and bumped and clumsily slopped down in the raft. Fish were in quick water and not in slow runs. Despite some water that had foam lines, good depth and cover, fish were not present in slower than walking speed water. They really preferred quick water with quick depth change. This water could be in the middle, on a bank, or in front of a rock, the key was there simply weren’t fish in slow water.

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Hopper dropper rigs ( chubby Chernobyl or Parachute Madam X as the dry and a 1/8 or 3.3mm Beadhead ) with mid sized jig nymphs of all types worked. The key was to have the bead 3.3mm or 2.8mm, a 5/32 or 3.8mm bead was simply to heavy for the flow.

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The Middle Fork is so low it’s really a wading anglers paradise right now. You can literally get almost anywhere in the river. A wader could start at Black Canyon and walk upstream like 3 miles.. and keep going. Access along the backside of 58 east of the Westfir Bridge is unlimited as well. Just look for the fastest water and you will find the fish.

Best bugs included Hippy Stomper #12 Purple and Gold, Chubby Chernobyl #10, Strolis Quil Body Jig #12, Tungsten Jig Yellow Sally and Tungsten Jigged Pheasant Tails.

Posted in Fishing Reports, Middle Fork Willamette River fishing | Leave a comment

Vinyl Jig Midge Fly Tying Instructional Video

Hey y’all. I tied this fly up, along with the Golden Stone jig nymph from an earlier video, at the end of July, when we were already experiencing tough, low water conditions that we would normally see at the end of August. It’s now the second week of September, and water levels are still quite low. Luckily, there’s some rain on the horizon, but it won’t change all that much in terms of river levels until the rain really starts to dump. Temps are on the drop, which is great. Fall is starting to show up, but I’ve been pretty confident in this fly with variations in colors for the past couple months both on the McKenzie and on a few trips I took out to the Metolius. It’s definitely earned a place in the box for low water conditions and picky spring-fed fish.

Materials:
Hook: Daichi 4698, Sz14
Bead: 3.8mm Slotted Tungsten, Black
Thread: UTC 70D, Dark Grey
Tail: Glo-Brite Floss
Body: Vinyl Rib Midge Black
Thorax: Ice Dub Peacock Black

Materials are available at https://www.caddisflyshop.com/​

Check us out on Instagram at

https://www.instagram.com/caddisflyshop

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/caddis.shop/​

Posted in Classes and Instruction, Fishing Reports, Fly Tying, Fly Tying Materials and Supplies, McKenzie River, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fall is in the air – Local Fishing Heating Up

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Water temps are ideal on the upper McKenzie River and each cooler night we have going forward will help the Lower river cool down as well. More bugs are present each day. Gray Drakes, October Caddis, Blue Winged Olives and a variety of mid sized caddis are available to feeding trout.

Best Flies to have in your box in the coming days:

Purple Parachute Rooster
Purple Haze
Gray Drake
Parachute Adams
Hi Vis Parachute Adams
Morrish’s Foam October Caddis
Orange Stimulator
Anderson’s Bird Of Prey October Caddis Nymph
Jigged Tungsten Hare’s Ear

Posted in Fishing Reports, Lower Willamette, McKenzie River | Leave a comment

The Biology of Harvest – Wild Steelheaders United

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By Nick Chambers for Wild Steelheaders United

Steelhead anglers probably have disagreed with aspects of sport fishing management since the dawn of fishing regulations. In recent years, however, one area of disagreement has come into sharp focus: sport harvest of wild steelhead.

Throughout the Lower 48, nearly all wild steelhead runs are now at a fraction of their historical abundance, distribution and diversity, and in recent years, many populations have produced some of the lowest, if not the lowest, run sizes on record. Despite the worrisome status and trends, a few fisheries in Oregon continue to allow harvest of wild steelhead, and as a result, there has been renewed controversy over whether any direct harvest should be allowed. To be clear, this is not merely a social debate about how we value these fish — this is primarily a debate among scientists, fish managers, fish advocates and anglers about whether the effects of harvest will contribute toward further declines, and eventual closure of fisheries. The way steelhead populations respond to harvest is rooted in the basic biology of the fish. While it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in these debates, steelhead and other salmonids have been well studied, and the large body of scientific literature can provide us with important insights to guide wild steelhead management.

From Seattle to San Diego, the only region where sport harvest of wild steelhead is still allowed is Oregon’s south-central coast. Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released a draft Rogue-South Coast Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan (RSP) that would update sport fishing regulations for steelhead in rivers such as the Rogue and Chetco. This plan would continue to permit sport fishing harvest of wild steelhead, despite large gaps in scientific data on population and age class numbers.
Over the last month, anglers came together to voice their support for pausing the harvest of wild steelhead on Oregon’s south coast. Over 2,000 comments from wild steelhead angler-advocates urged ODFW to select a catch and release alternative for wild steelhead in its final RSP.

On October 15th, ODFW will present the RSP to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the commissioners will review and comment on the plan. In the meantime, we offer this five-part series of posts on why catch and release is the best option for the long-term health of wild steelhead, and drill down to the basics about the methods scientists use to evaluate whether a population can support harvest, and if so at what level.

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MANAGING STEELHEAD: DENSITY DEPENDENCE AND ESCAPEMENT GOALS

Successful management of any fish or game animal — which necessarily means ensuring a healthy, durable population that can persist as habitat conditions change — must start with the biological fundamentals. How many animals do you have? How productive are they? What is their distribution and is the population stable, decreasing or increasing?
Without this type of data it is impossible to know how many, if any, animals can be removed through harvest without harming the population, and how such actions could impact the population’s resilience and diversity.

The questions are simple, but they are not necessarily easy to answer, especially for a species like steelhead that often inhabit large watersheds with hundreds to thousands of stream miles. We can’t survey and count steelhead across an entire watershed, or sample them every day of the year. Counting every fish in every nook and cranny of a watershed is an almost impossible task, so even answering the first question is more challenging than it might seem.

Generally, managers sub-sample a portion of stream habitat for adult redds and/or juveniles and then extrapolate that information to the entire basin. The more thorough the sampling is, such as covering a greater length of the total stream habitat in a watershed, the greater the certainty in the estimate. For example, ODFW has done a remarkable job of monitoring, researching, and adaptively managing Coastal Coho Salmon populations, and many scientists have relied on the methods that were developed for those fish.

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Unfortunately, steelhead have not received the same amount of attention, presumably because they are not ESA listed and there is, consequently, less funding for monitoring and research. Because the monitoring is much more limited and less habitat and fewer fish are sampled, there are substantial data gaps and tremendous uncertainty associated with their annual monitoring efforts. Turning this data into meaningful estimates requires making several assumptions, and if those assumptions are not tested and validated, it can lead to policy decisions that are not in the best long-term interest of the fish and the fisheries they provide.

Let’s unpack what this means and define what we mean by assumption. An assumption is a concept that is generally accepted scientifically as true or accurate, but lacks specific data to support it. For instance, in many watersheds it is assumed the stream habitat is filled to capacity with juvenile steelhead. If true, adding more adults to the spawning population (think more eggs in the gravel) will not necessarily result in increased abundance in the next generation because there is simply not enough “room and board” for the extra juvenile fish. Under such conditions, the only way to increase the abundance of adult steelhead is to improve freshwater habitat so it can support more juvenile fish.

Unfortunately, these assumptions are rarely tested for steelhead. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge and research on steelhead, but data quality and quantity on adults and juveniles is often insufficient to rigorously evaluate the capacity or productive potential of the available habitat. Bridging the gap between a basic understanding of fish and habitat associations and watershed capacity is difficult, and where it has been done, it has been based on sound monitoring and research on abundance, life history (e.g., size, age, time of entry and spawning), and distribution of juvenile and adult life stages.

Still, even in our best case scenarios — and as we outline in future posts — a great deal of uncertainty remains, which is why we are going to take a deeper dive into the biology of steelhead that forms linkages between their biology, management, and the future of our fisheries.

To understand fisheries, we first need to understand density dependence and its relevance to the fish, fishery management and estimating productive potential.

Density dependence is how population vital rates change in relation to density. For example, a common result of density dependence is decreased growth or increased mortality in relation to an increase in density of juvenile steelhead. This occurs because of competition for limited resources. There simply isn’t enough food or space for all fish to grow and survive equally. Consequently, some fish grow and survive at higher rates than others, which is why size is often a good predictor of survival from one life stage to the next. All else being equal, size matters: larger fish usually survive better than smaller ones.

The concept of density dependence is at the core of a population’s ability to compensate for a reduction in the number of spawning adults, whether that reduction be related to natural or human factors, such as harvest. Compensation occurs when the per-capita productivity of spawning adults increases as their density decreases.

In theory, once the number of returning adults is low enough that there is ample vacant spawning and rearing habitat (which would be utilized in years when run sizes were larger) the reduced number of fish grow and survive better. ODFW’s assumption for the Southern Oregon Coast is that low levels of harvest will not have a negative effect on the long-term health and durability of wild steelhead populations because they will compensate with better growth and survival, which should in turn improve productivity for the next generation.

While salmon and steelhead are known to exhibit compensatory responses, each population has a different capacity for response. For this reason, most successful fisheries are grounded in collection of high-quality data at appropriate scales over a sufficient period of time to have a basic understanding of population status and trends.

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A fishery should always have as its primary goal the maintenance of a sufficiently abundant, diverse and well distributed supply of spawning adults. If too few adults return to spawn, there may not be enough juveniles to fill up all of the habitat, partly because fewer adults will not be able to spawn across all the habitat, and partly because juvenile steelhead have their limits (even though they can swim relatively long distances) and long-distance dispersal often comes with a cost of increased mortality. Ultimately then, if too few fish return they may not be able to fully compensate, resulting in reduced production of smolts and returning adults.

This is where a fishery’s escapement goal comes in. Escapement refers to the number of fish that escape the fishery and survive to spawn. Escapement goals attempt to estimate how many spawning adults it would require to take advantage of the available habitat. If the run size is forecast to be greater than the escapement goal, a fishery is allowed. Alternatively, if the run size is expected to be less than the escapement goal, a fishery could be restricted or perhaps, in the case of very small run sizes, not allowed at all.

Establishing an appropriate escapement goal is critical for any fishery. Goals that are too low may depress a population beyond its ability to recover, while goals that are too high may be unrealistic and eliminate potential for any fisheries. Ideally, there is a sweet spot that balances the conservation needs of the population to remain resilient through climate change and also creates opportunities for anglers to get on the water and enjoy fishing for wild steelhead. But finding that sweet spot depends on having sufficient information about density dependence on other population and habitat metrics — which is what ODFW does not have right now as it prepares to bring the draft Rogue-South Coast Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Next week we take a deep dive into the important early-life biology of steelhead, and how the distribution and timing of spawning can influence density dependence and escapement goals. Until then, please help our wild steelhead by fishing responsibly during this drought- and heat- afflicted summer.

Author Nick Chambers — from Grants Pass, OR — is a Master’s candidate in the University of Washington’s fisheries program.

Posted in North Umpqua River Fishing Reports, Oregon Conservation News, Oregon Salmon fly fishing, Oregon Winter Steelhead Fishing, Southern Oregon | Leave a comment

Chicken Strip Baitfish Fly Tying Instructional Video with Alex Swartz

In this video, Alex Swartz ties a baitfish pattern with a multitude of predator species applications. Alex uses bucktail, saddle hackles, flash, and some exciting new snowrunner brushes to whip this fly up — many different sizes and color combinations could be applied to this fly, and could lead to your angling success in all 4 corners of the globe. We hope you enjoy!

Materials:
Hook: Ahrex PR-378
Thread: Veevus 240D
Tail: Flashabou red, pearl, gold; Bucktail Sunburst
Yellow, Strung Chinese Saddle Hackles in Yellow
Body: Snowrunner Brush Yellow, Flashabou in gold,
red, and pearl, Bucktail Sunburst Yellow
Head: Snowrunner Brush Red
Eyes: ProSportfisher Tabbed Eyes 10mm

Materials are available at https://www.caddisflyshop.com/​

Check us out on Instagram at

https://www.instagram.com/caddisflyshop

Facebook:

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Posted in Fly Tying, Fly Tying Materials and Supplies | Leave a comment

Fishing Locally Remains Strong – Cooler Nights Ahead

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The McKenzie and Middle Fork of the Willamette Rivers continue to fish well, and cooler nights ahead should improve things further. Despite extremely low numbers of steelhead some good fall trout fishing is still available. We are starting to see a few more mayflies emerging throughout the drainage. It’s time to restock your mayflies and start thinking about October Caddis patterns.

Best mayflies to have in your box for the next month include:
Rainy’s X Fly Parachute Adams
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Hatchmaster Blue Winged Olive Parachute Extended Body Blue Winged Olive
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Hi Vis Parachute AdamsIMG_1391

Hair Wing Green DrakeIMG_1394

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Get out there and enjoy! Fall is coming!

Posted in Fishing Reports | Leave a comment

Emergency fishing closures in Deschutes, other mid-Columbia tributaries begin Sept. 1 due to low steelhead returns

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ODFW Press Release August 27, 2021

SALEM, Ore.—In response to extremely low returns to date of Columbia Basin upriver summer steelhead, ODFW is adopting additional emergency rules to increase protections for wild summer steelhead in certain Oregon Columbia River tributaries.

Passage counts of summer steelhead at Bonneville Dam from July 1 through Aug. 26 are the lowest since counts began in 1938. This continues a pattern of several years of low returns for many populations and comes during a period when flows throughout the basin are generally low because of drought. Within this run are ESA-listed wild summer steelhead destined for the Upper Columbia and Snake rivers, as well as several mid-Columbia tributaries.

On Aug. 16 and 23, fisheries scientists from the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) downgraded the forecast for A-index summer steelhead from an already low preseason estimate of 89,200 to an in-season estimate of 35,000.

“We’re in uncharted territory here” said Shaun Clements, ODFW Deputy Administrator for Fish Division. “The combination of a historically low run on top of multiple years of low runs, and the very poor environmental conditions that seem likely to continue based on the most recent drought forecast, mean this is a regional problem.

We know these actions are going to negatively affect anglers this year and we don’t take that lightly,” Clements continued. “But they are unfortunately necessary at this time to give the fish the best chance to rebound and ensure the populations can support fisheries in future years.”

The rules will close steelhead fishing in the lower Umatilla and in additional areas of the Deschutes and John Day rivers beginning Sept. 1. See more details on the emergency regulations below. They are addition to existing steelhead closures in portions of the lower Deschutes and John Day rivers.

These changes come on top of measures already taken in mainstem Columbia River fisheries to protect summer steelhead during their migration to the tributaries. Because of the low pre-season forecasts for summer steelhead, fishing seasons in 2021 were crafted with additional measures to protect steelhead. These included extensive closures to retention of steelhead in mainstem angling areas (including some tributary river mouths), and implementation of no-angling sanctuaries in Oregon tributary mouths that serve as cold-water refuges for migrating steelhead.

The actions taken today are part of a multistate response and put protections in place in mid-Columbia Oregon tributaries that are expected to have low to very low returns. While wild steelhead mortalities are generally low under normal fishing regulations, and fisheries are not generally a limiting factor for recovery, the additional restrictions will further reduce effects on wild summer steelhead during this unprecedented low return.

“The fact that we’re having to make these restrictions underlines the urgency in addressing the factors that are ultimately causing these declines, notably addressing issues with the Columbia River hydrosystem and protecting/restoring habitat in the tributaries,” said Clements. “It is only by addressing these factors that we will really move the needle on recovery.”

Effective Sept. 1 the following emergency regulations are in place:

Deschutes River

–From markers at lower end of Moody Rapids upstream to Sherars Falls, closed to angling for steelhead from Sept. 1-30.

–From markers at lower end of Moody Rapids downstream to the mouth at Interstate 84 Bridge closed to angling (all species) from Sept. 1-30.

Managers will monitor the return and consider whether the fishery can reopen in October or whether further restrictions are needed.

Umatilla River

–From Hwy 730 Bridge upstream to Threemile Dam, closed to retention of steelhead Sept. 1-Dec. 31.
John Day River

–Upstream of Tumwater Falls, closed to angling for steelhead from Sept. 1-Dec. 31.
Walla Walla River

–Upstream of the Oregon/Washington state line, closed to retention of steelhead Sept. 1-Dec. 31.

Anglers are reminded that several previously adopted emergency rules in the Columbia River Zone and certain adjacent tributary mouths, including the Deschutes and John Day rivers, remain in place. Always check the angling zone report at MyODFW recreation report for the latest regulations, https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/

Regional fishery managers will continue to monitor passage counts and fisheries and will make further adjustments to fisheries as warranted as the fall progresses.

Posted in Central Oregon Fishing Report, Oregon fly fishing links, Oregon Fly Fishing Tips, Summer Steelhead | 1 Comment

Columbia Steelhead Crisis: What Needs to Happen

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From Native Fish Society

Click here to add your name to the letter below and join the groundswell of public support speaking up for Columbia Basin steelhead!

Dear Governors Brown & Inslee and ODFW & WDFW Commission Members,

To put it bluntly, Columbia Basin wild steelhead are in crisis. Steelhead counts at Bonneville are unlike anything we have seen in nearly a century and are on the path to being the worst run ever recorded since counting began in 1938. The few fish that have returned are facing the second hottest water temperature trends in the past decade.

We implore the states of Oregon and Washington to take aggressive action immediately to ensure that as many wild fish as possible make it to their homewaters and successfully spawn. To be frank, we are quite possibly looking at the end game for wild steelhead in what was once one of the world’s greatest wild anadromous fish-producing ecosystems. It’s now or never if we are going to act to prevent the extinction of these Pacific Northwest icons.

Today, we ask that the states take the following actions to reverse the slide toward extinction of these magnificent fish:

1) Through 2021, close non-tribal commercial drift gill nets in the lower Columbia River and close or seriously curtail recreational fisheries (including catch and release) in the Columbia River mainstem and tributaries that target wild steelhead.

As of August 16, the cumulative hatchery and wild steelhead return for the entire Columbia Basin was a mere 22% of the current 10-year average, which itself is the lowest 10-year average on record. Wild steelhead returns are on track to be the lowest since counting began to differentiate between hatchery and wild fish in 1994. It is quite likely that far fewer than 20,000 wild steelhead will make it past the first Columbia mainstem dam (Bonneville) this year. The fish that do will still have hundreds of miles, lethally hot water temperatures, and numerous dams to navigate on their return to their spawning grounds. Every fish needs to be given the best chance possible to successfully reproduce. The states should close all non-tribal fisheries that target steelhead and commercial gill net fisheries that potentially intercept these fish. This should include catch and release angling which causes stress to fish and can result in unintended mortalities, especially when fish are already facing hot water temperatures.

The state of Oregon has recognized that fisheries closures are an important management tool during low run years. In August, the Umpqua River, where similarly low steelhead returns and high water temperatures are being observed, was closed to angling by ODFW for the remainder of the year. Similar conservation actions are warranted for Columbia basin populations as well.

2) Issue a disaster declaration.

Commercial and recreational fisheries are being significantly affected by the poor returns. Management actions to protect the run will further impact these important economies. We ask that the Governors of Oregon and Washington declare a disaster so that commercial anglers and recreational fishing guides can access federal and/or state funding to see them through this emergency while the state Departments of Fish and Wildlife implement conservation-oriented management actions that can protect what remains of this year’s wild steelhead populations.

3) Establish and protect cold water refugia in Washington.

Unlike Oregon, the state of Washington has failed to designate thermal sanctuaries and closure policies for these important cold water refugia. Summer water temperatures in the mainstem Columbia River often reach lethal levels during the migration period for Summer Steelhead. When water temperatures rise above 64F, survival begins to decrease. At 70F, there’s a 10% reduction in survival compared to when the temps are 64F and below. The Columbia River at Bonneville Dam usually surpasses the 64F threshold by early July, can remain above 70F for a month or more, and often reaches highs of 73-74F. This summer, mainstem temperatures are on their way to being some of the most sustained high temperatures ever recorded.

By contrast, many of the major tributaries entering the Columbia in the critical migration corridor below the John Day Dam have water temperatures that can run substantially colder than the mainstem, up to 10F or more in some rivers. 60-80% of fish migrating up the Columbia use these cooler pools of water as refuges when mainstem temperatures top 68F. They are a critical piece to increasing survivability of upper-basin bound fish.

At the same time, thermal refugia can expose fish to increased angling. Even catch and release encounters can greatly reduce the survival and reproduction of fish. Areas where fish congregate are naturally attractive to the angling public and can turn what should be refuge into another stressor on fish already being pushed to their physical limits.

Oregon recently established thermal angling sanctuaries at a number of key cold water refugia. We thank the ODFW Commission for taking this important conservation step. It’s time for Washington to do the same. We urge the WDFW Commission to adopt and enforce thermal angling sanctuaries on EPA designated cold water refugia rivers including the Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama, Wind, Little White Salmon, White Salmon, and Klickitat Rivers.

4) Extend Thermal Angling Sanctuary protections in Oregon until October 31 and extend the Deschutes sanctuary to cover 100% of the cold water plume.

At present, angling closures at these important thermal sanctuaries are set to expire on September 16. Yet a substantial portion of Snake River Steelhead use cold water refuges like the Deschutes through September and into October. Oregon should extend these sanctuaries through at least October 31 to provide steelhead safe harbor on their journey. Further, the Deschutes River thermal angling sanctuary should be extended to cover 100% of the cold water refugium plume (at present, the sanctuary only covers 75% of the plume). This cold water refugium is particularly critical as it is the last recognized sanctuary for fish until they make their final run for their homewaters.

5) Establish and implement high temperature and low flow angling closure policies.

As we continue to experience the effects of year-after-year warm water temperatures and low snowpack, we urge the departments to develop river-specific, temperature- and flow-based angling regulations that protect sensitive stocks, rather than having department staff respond each year, mid-season, and often after the temperature thresholds have been exceeded.

The scientific literature on the effects of warm water temperature on salmonids is extensive and shows that temperature affects every stage of their life histories. It is now common for many Oregon and Washington rivers to experience temperatures that exceed the thresholds suitable for ethical catch and release angling or in mixed-stock fisheries that have sensitive or threatened populations caught as bycatch. It is important for the departments to develop and implement science-based policy to respond to these emerging, but annually recurring, threats. It behooves the agency to craft such regulations in advance of the hot summer season, rather than through piecemeal emergency responses.

Today, we ask that ODFW and WDFW take the actions necessary to establish statewide angling regulation policy that sets standards for fishing closures when temperature thresholds are exceeded. We implore the department to craft this regulation before summer of 2022 in order to best protect and conserve all of our native fish in the coming year and beyond.

It is also critical that the department establish publicly accessible temperature monitoring systems on all major tributaries and cold water refugia of the Columbia in order to effectively implement this policy and provide transparency to the public when triggers are reached. In Washington, the Cowlitz, Lewis, Wind, Little White Salmon, White Salmon, and Klickatat Rivers (all EPA designated cold water refuges) lack temperature monitoring, and in Oregon, the Sandy and Hood Rivers and Tanner, Herman and Eagle Creeks (all EPA designated cold water refuges) lack temperature monitoring.

6) Establish a suite of in-season adaptive management triggers and actions.

When run sizes are below a set critical abundance target, regulatory actions must be taken. Both the critical thresholds and the management actions to be taken need to be specified in advance of the run season and regularly evaluated during the return. The strength of any regulatory actions should be based on the return size, with the lowest return years requiring the most drastic actions.

7) Support and advocate for the removal of the four Snake River dams.

We know that removing these dams is necessary to revive abundant, wild fish in the Snake River system. We ask that the states and Oregon and Washington formally declare their support for dam removal, call on President Biden to withdraw support for the Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion, and advocate for federal legislation that gets the dams out soon while providing a net uplift for all of the Columbia’s fish populations, upstream and downstream.

The state of our rivers and fish populations can no longer be sustained with the business as usual approach. Yes; the change that is needed immediately and in the coming years will have real world impacts on individuals, on businesses, on communities, and on economies. But those will also be the impacts that come about if we no longer have salmon and steelhead returning to our rivers. We stand ready to advocate strongly for state and federal compensation for those communities and industries that are impacted. We stand ready to support the states in taking immediate and aggressive action to prevent the serious depletion or extinction of Columbia Basin wild steelhead.

Wild, native fish are a keystone species; they’re uniquely entwined in a natural relationship with people and wildlife. Their wellbeing and success affect us all.

What will we lose when these fish are gone? What are we losing right now as they disappear on our watch? What will the state do? What will the department do? What will you do, right now, to ensure that Columbia basin steelhead have a future?

The time is now to act. Otherwise, it will be on our watch that these magnificent creatures disappear from our landscapes.

Thank you.

Posted in Oregon Conservation News, Oregon Salmon fly fishing, Summer Steelhead | 2 Comments

Resisting the call of the Deschutes – Chris Santella

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Our friend and favorite author Chris Santella had this opinion piece published in he Oregonian and Oregonlive.com recently.

Every March, I begin looking forward to late summer afternoons at the mouth of the Deschutes River. The kaleidoscope of kite sails around Hood River and the creosote smell of railroad ties in The Dalles signal that I’m getting close to once again, experiencing world-class fishing — swinging flies for wild summer steelhead on a majestic western river.

The Deschutes is celebrated for its run of steelhead. These fish hatch in the river, grow to the size of a smallish trout, pass through The Dalles and Bonneville dams, then head down the Columbia to the sea, and spend a year (or more) feeding in the North Pacific before returning to procreate in their natal river—a truly epic journey. Averaging six to eight pounds, native Deschutes steelhead may not rival the size of their brethren on the Olympic Peninsula or British Columbia, but their aggressiveness toward a fly or lure and their speed and power once hooked are legendary. Not easy to fish, steelhead are sometimes referred to as the fish of a thousand casts, and once you’ve felt the fish’s unmistakable grab, it’s positively addictive. “The tug is the drug,” and in catch-and-release fishing, returning an unharmed native fish back to the river makes for a very good day, indeed.

Alas, it’s not a good time to be a steelhead, nor a steelhead angler. Thanks to drought and extreme heat, water temperatures in the lower 40 miles of the Deschutes are dangerously warm, exceeding 70 degrees some days. That’s prompted fishing closures on the Deschutes (and some other rivers) after 2 pm when river temperatures reach their maximum. Warm water holds less oxygen, exacerbating the stress that fish experience when hooked to often fatal levels.

Worse yet, the number of steelhead returning to the Deschutes and other Columbia Basin tributaries is at a historic low. To put returns in perspective: in a good year more than 130,000 steelhead pass through Bonneville Dam by August 1; this year, only 15,000 have made it that far. Some groups, including The Conservation Angler have called for the closure of the recreational steelhead season until returns improve.

There are many factors contributing to declines. Certainly, ocean conditions are poor. But there’s also commercial fishing operations on the Columbia River that unintentionally catch steelhead; competition from hatchery fish; historical spawning habitat access blocked by dams; and compromised spawning grounds. The impact of catch-and-release fly fishing with barbless hooks and swift release to the river is fairly negligible, yet the impact adds up as some wild fish are caught more than once.

And at a time when the future of these iconic fish hangs in the balance, even one fish that’s unintentionally killed by recreational angling seems one fish too many. It seems only fair that I should do my part.

Since early July, when the first pods of steelhead returned to their birth waters, I’ve resisted the Deschutes’ clarion call. Some have suggested that I hike to the pools I would usually be casting across as the sun begins to fade behind the canyon walls to the west, praying for that tug. But I can’t bear the temptation. Others have suggested that I fish but clip the point off my hook. There would still be the thrill of the grab. But it’s not quite the same.

For now, I’ll monitor the river conditions and dam counts in hopes that fishing might be an ethically sound decision sometime down the road.

And take a small bit of comfort in thinking that perhaps I’m doing the right thing.

Posted in Eastern Oregon, Oregon Conservation News, Summer Steelhead | 1 Comment

Long-term closure on four-mile section of McKenzie River Trail from Knoll Fire

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From the USFS- August 19,2021

McKenzie Bridge, Ore., Aug. 19, 2021 — The Knoll Fire on the McKenzie River Ranger District has transitioned back to the local unit. The 544-acre lightning-caused Knoll Fire is located seven miles northeast of McKenzie Bridge, Ore., and is currently 60% contained. The fire is staying within the containment lines, and fire crews are mopping up and monitoring the fire.

Due to fire impacts and safety hazards, four miles of the McKenzie River Trail will be closed until summer of 2022, and possibly longer, from the Blue Pool/Tamolitch Falls Trailhead south to Deer Creek. The section from Deer Creek to Frissell Boat Launch is currently inside the Knoll Fire closure order but could be opened when the fire closure is lifted. Recreation sites north of Blue Pool/Tamolitch Falls Trailhead, including Blue Pool, remain open as well as recreation sites south of Frissell Boat Launch. The section of the trail is closed due to significant fire damage to the trail surface and trail structures, including Deer Creek Trail Bridge. Additionally, the McKenzie River is closed to boaters from the Trail Bridge Reservoir to the Frissell Boat Launch. The Knolls Fire closure order is still in effect, and recreation sites such as Olallie Campground, Deer Creek, Deer Creek Road, Deer Creek Hot Springs and all other uses within the closure area remain prohibited. For more information on the Knoll Fire closure, visit https://go.usa.gov/xFwt9.

Smoke will potentially be visible in the McKenzie River area from the Knoll Fire and surrounding fires. For information about the air and smoke quality, visit https://fire.airnow.gov/. Campfires are still prohibited on the entire Willamette National Forest due to extreme fire danger and ongoing active fires. “Know Before You Go” and check local fire restrictions before visiting the forest. For more information on fire restrictions or to find detailed maps and the full text of fire-related closure orders, visit https://go.usa.gov/xFfth.

For updates, please follow the Willamette National Forest Facebook page or Twitter (@WillametteNF).

Posted in Fishing Reports, McKenzie River, Oregon fly fishing links | Leave a comment

Cooler Temperatures mid August – Fishing Remains Solid on the McKenzie

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Fishing with smaller nymphs and a variety of dry flies has been good on the McKenzie River. Water levels are low and water temperatures are a bit higher than normal but the fishing above Leaburg Dam is solid. It’s a great time to try hoppers and attractors as well as more standard patterns.

Best dry fly patterns are:

Parachute Adams
Parachute Purple Haze
Hippy Stomper
Missing Link Honey Ant
Blade Runner Hopper
Bullet Head Hopper
Parachute Caddis

Best Nymph Patterns are:

Sweetmeat Caddis
Tungsten Dart
Jigged Hustler
Jigged CDC Pheasant Tail Nymph

Posted in Fishing Reports, Lower Willamette, McKenzie River | Leave a comment