Time to reduce or remove hatchery rainbows from the McKenzie River

Today the Register-Guard ran a guest editorial we wrote, calling for a reduction or removal of hatchery rainbow trout in the McKenzie River. Now it’s your turn to tell your personal story. Write a letter or email to the Register-Guard. Fisheries managers will hear from the counterargument — and they need to hear from you.

The Register-Guard welcomes letters on topics of general interest. Our length limit is 250 words; all letters are subject to condensation. Writers are limited to one letter per calendar month. Because of the volume of mail, not all letters can be printed. Letters must be signed with the writers full name. An address and daytime telephone number are needed for verification purposes; this information will not be published or released.

Mail letters to:

P.O. Box 10188
Eugene, OR 97440-2188

E-mail: rgletters@registerguard.com. If you email, copy ODFW fisheries biologist Jeff Ziller: jeffrey.s.ziller@state.or.us.

And thanks for the support.

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17 Responses to Time to reduce or remove hatchery rainbows from the McKenzie River

  1. G Hatten says:

    Thanks Matt & Chris for all your work on publishing a great article this morning in the Register Guard. You captured the essence of the problem and communicated it in a very objective “fact-based” manner.
    I will be happy to contribute my two cents on the topic. Well done gentlemen.

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks for your efforts. Wild trout management has been good for the metolius, great for the deschutes, no reason it won’t be just as beneficial to the mckenzie.

  3. Michael Webb says:

    Good job guys, very well put – I am sure a few choice sentences were left in the editing room:)
    Letters sent

  4. Brandon T says:

    It would be nice if Oregon got the memo on wild trout conservation like everyone else int the west! Keep up the fight guys!

  5. David Jensen says:

    Thanks, boys for a well written piece. I live in what Matt and Chris appropriately called the sacrifice zone – Blue River to the dam. The native population in that stretch is greatly depressed. I live above Brown’s Hole, one of the few places where you can predictably hook up with a real fish. But, unlike the Ollalie –
    Blue River stretch, only on a cloudy day, or at last light. This morning, 1 hour after reading the paper, I did nail a beautiful native at 9:00 am on a gray drake, on a warm cloudy day at Brown’s Hole. They are unfortunately so rare, until last light, that I quit fishing and walked up to have more coffee.

    My view is to get us to no plant above the dam requires us to first get this by the McKenzie River Guides Association. I know that Chris, as am I, are members. I hope that members will speak up, even though we will be unpopular, at the annual meeting. I remember decades ago arguing for a reduction in the daily bag limit from 10, and my friends thinking I was a Communist. I know little, but I know one thing – I personally never hire a guide when I am fishing in a foreign state where it is not on a blue ribbon catch and release native fishery.

    Keep your tip up!

  6. Rick says:

    Mat and Chris, I too thought the article was well written and fact based. It is refreshing to hear an objective voice or two in the issues that confront all of us as flyfishers and sportsmen.

  7. Karl Mueller says:

    That is so good, I wish I wrote it!

  8. Rob R says:

    Great work Matt & Chris!! An important first step. I think there is a case on the McKenzie for the total elimination of all hatchery programs. If Oregonians want to preserve Willamette Basin spring chinook, a population on the brink of extinction and listed under the ESA, the cheapest and easiest thing we can do is remove hatchery fish and the resulting competition and angling pressure on the McKenzie. By diverting those mitigation dollars top habitat programs, we would be taking two big steps in the right direction.

  9. steve says:

    Hmm… Let me state right off that I am a pure fly fisher. While we would all love to have just wild fish…Here is the problem… With license fees on the decline, where do the “bait fisherman” fish? Has anybody paid attention to the number of kids and folks who want to catch a few for the frying pan? I guess you could argue “we have ponds and lakes for that”. But, as one of my favorite authors once stated “in the past of every catch and release fly fisher is a big black skillet…” Any studies on the number of folks who come to the McKenzie in July and August just for the fish fry? How much money is spent on guides, hotels, retaurants and out of state licenses for the fly fishing and “steam side lunch” that ALL guides advertise? These are not bait fishers either. There is no consistent hatch on the McKenzie inspite of the core of engineers promise of the Cougar Dam work that would provide a more “consistent and stable” environment on the McKenzie for bugs and fish. I won’t argue that wild fish are caught by bait folks and either 1) kept or 2) end up dying from taking the bait too deep.

    How about better enforcement on the wild water? I can’t begin to count how many times i have seen (and called in) people fishing bait in the wild water on both the upper McKenzie and the Willamette betwen Hills Creek and Lookout… I have seen some nice stringers that have broken my heart.. and this has nothing to do with hatchery fish.

    It’s nice to dream..but the needs of the many will outweigh the dreams of a few….

    Be careful what you ask for as July and August could be very skinny on guide fees….unless you like tossing wet flies.

  10. Karl Mueller says:

    I disagree with Steve’s line of reasoning and the conclusions that he draws.

    Many kids certainly want to keep fish for the pan. But it is our job to teach kids the value of healthy ecosystems and the idea that unlimited human intervention takes a heavy toll on the natural world. We should teach our children to enjoy the bounty of nature within sustinable limits. We should not let a child’s or adult’s for that matter unmitigated lust for a fish stick guide managment decisions on the Mckenzie and drive the redsides to the brink. Native redisdes are a thing of beauty, powerful and perfectly suited for their environment. Planters, not so much. If you want your kids to fish, take them fishing. If you want to play Whack-a-mole go to Chucky Cheese. There is one at Gateway.

    Regarding the guide issue: I guided two people on a half day trip the Mckenzie this past Friday. They laid waste to the hatchey trout, catching them on the dry and nymph at the same time. But, we had earlier discussed the redsides and Mckenzie river managment. When one of the dudes hooked up with and landed a good sized native he said to me, “I can see why you’d want the river to be managed for those. You can feel the difference right away. Those others were just filler fish.” He’ll remember that one redside way more than the thirty plus planters he caught.

    That one native made the trip for him and me. I took pleasure in showing someone what the river could be. I’m pretty sure they’ll be back and if not, at least he experienced the best the river has to offer.

  11. Jeff says:

    I agree with some of Steve’s points. Sometimes I want to eat the trout I catch. However, I floated the same Taylor’s to Hendricks stretch that we’ve been catching planters in all spring & summer this weekend without all the planters and caught two hog redsides in the middle of the afternoon. Didn’t catch one native over 10 inches that entire time until they stopped planting. Pretty compelling evidence.

  12. Darlene Kline-Dolby says:

    The wild/hatchery fish issue is extremely complicated. I don’t believe that planting hatchery fish is completely responsible for the demise of wild fish. There are environmental impacts to be considered. The dams that reduce the spring flushing of the river certainly affect fish habitat. The human populatin explosion along the McKenzie River banks cannot be discounted. Every trip I take down the river I see a new house…complete with septic tank, green manicured lawn and all. Do you realize there are over 4,000 homes above Hayden Bridge tht rely on septic systems? Many of those systems have failed to work properly and many are on the verge of failure. How often do you see riparian areas stripped of their grasses, trees and shrubs?

    Many folks talk fondly of the good old days, when in the 1920’s wild fish in the three and four pound range were common. I can remember the good old days in the 70’s when the McKenzie ran so cold it was impossible to wade barefoot, the bottom was clear of slime and there was little if any weed in the river.

    I do believe we can and must do better if we are to save the McKenzie Redsides. Perhaps a halt in stocking a select section of the river for say, four or five years, do creel surveys, then evaluate the results. In the meantime work with the county and the state to increase set backs, to put a moritorium on building on the river, and to get a sewer system installed for the upriver communities.

    I also believe that hatchery fish are vital to the sport fishing community in our state and they do provide fishing opportunites for those that do not have the opportunity to fish the McKenzie as many of us in this debate have.

  13. Craig Heaton says:


    ……..and tell us how you really feel about the use of bait on the McKenzie.

  14. Jim Terborg says:

    I support the reduction or elimination of stocking on the McKenzie River above the dam. I live on the river above Blue River. Years ago when planters were released above Blue River, I would regularly catch them near my house. Since they stopped planting, in the same areas I now catch native fish between 12 and 18 inches. I much prefer catching native trout. A “put and take” fishery is not optimal management of the McKenzie River in my opinion. Thanks Matt and Chris for bringing this issue to the forefront.

  15. Craig Heaton says:

    ” In the meantime work with the county and the state to increase set backs, to put a moritorium on building on the river, and to get a sewer system installed for the upriver communities.”

    The above quote is just more distractions in the mix! Lane County has done little or nothing in the past to enforce existing regulations. Yes, I know the ODFW and Lane Co. are revisiting the regs in the name of water quality. So I have to ask; does Lane Co. have the will power, man power, or the money for enforcement?

    One drive up-river along RT126, tells all. There is no way many of those homes along the river banks have a functioning septic system. New sewage plants would be nice for communities up-river; better get in line for stimulus money from Obama! Does the tax payer of Lane Co./Oregon have the extra pocket money for the new sewage plants.


  16. steve says:

    Thanks Karl you supported one of “logical fallacies and unsupported fear mongering” points…..you would have caught one fish if the planters were not there…that’s good for return business.


  17. Karl Mueller says:

    I might have gone a bit overboard with the unsupported fear mongering statement, but . . .

    You’ll never convince me that a vibrant native trout fishery made possible by more intelligent managment decisions would lead to a decrease in guide business, quite the contrary in my opinion.

    Furthermore, myself and many others value the Mckenzie for more than just “return business.” Do you want to see a healthy native fish population in that reach? If the anwer to that is yes, then the path to that goal is clear. Eliminate or substantially reduce stocking and eliminate the bait fishery above Goodpasture. Is it really necessary to have both dudes have a double at the same time (2 casts 4 fish several times a day)? Is it really necessary to say we caught fifty trout and have your buddy ask you what you did after lunch? These are signs of an obviously overstocked river.

    Given the FACT that ODFW’s most recent finding regarding the effect of hatchery fish on the native trout is that the planters are depressing the native fish, the absence of planters would mean more natives to catch. I won’t speculate as to whether we would have caught more of them.

    I’ll stand by my statement that your opinions regarding guide fees are speculation. We don’t know what would happen if there was a solid native fishery but evidence form other places suggests that where there is this type of fishery guides do pretty well.

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