If you didn’t make it to Monday night’s ODFW meeting regarding fishing regulations on the McKenzie River, you missed out. 33 native fish supporters showed up in force to vote for passing a regulation that would restrict the use of bait in the all-wild, catch-and-release only section of the McKenzie River between Hendricks and Hayden Bridges. The particular section is not stocked with hatchery fish and is a high production area for wild, native McKenzie Redband Rainbow trout, a unique and sought after fish that drives anglers and tourism dollars to the region.
The objective of this regulation change is to create a production area for native rainbow trout in the lower McKenzie River that will add to the sustainability of the McKenzie River trout populations. This section of the river has excellent potential for production of large rainbow trout for non-consumptive angler use. The new rule would reduce hooking mortality on wild trout in the non-stocked area while allowing the retention of hatchery trout that drift downriver from above Hendricks Bridge and allowing salmon and steelhead anglers to use bait during the peak of these runs.
Your friendly neighborhood biologists and wild fish advocates can send you a whole slew of studies on fishing methods and hooking mortality. Generally speaking, for trout, single barbless hooks on artificial flies or lures, mortality is about 3-5%. With bait or scented artificial (i.e. powerbait), mortality is around 32% when fished under a bobber.
The bottom line is that section of river is no longer stocked and bait anglers kill 1/3 of the wild fish they touch. You can’t support a catch and release wild fishery with that kind of mortality.
FYI: ODFW biologists have made this recommendation before at an ODFW Commission meeting and the conservation community didn’t show up. The bait supporters did — and the regulation change was spiked.
Last night, the wild fish advocates won out. A show of hands in the room — 33 to 8 in favor of the regulation change. But this was pre-season… not the real deal. This was not a commission meeting, but public comment was recorded. The commission meeting (where the fate of regulation changes is ultimately decided) will be August 3rd in Salem.
Monday night our voices were heard. But tell your boss now that you need to take off the first Friday in August, because if eight retired knuckleheads show up to complain in Salem, ranting about how wild fish don’t exist and that we’re “closing the river”… it will outweigh forty well-written letters and the recommendation of local biologists.
Thank you to everyone who came out Monday night, but we need you there August 3rd to support wild fish on the McKenzie River.