McKenzie River Hatchery trout reduction or removal update

On this Thanksgiving, we’d like to give thanks to you – the wild fish advocates – for standing up for wild trout on the McKenzie River. Thank you to all of the people who signed petitions, sent letters, filled out angler preference surveys and joined the McKenzie cause on Facebook. Here is an update on the situation:

Key facts regarding the McKenzie River hatchery trout program:

– ODFW’s public documents (McKenzie Fish Management Plan 1997 and McKenzie Sub-basin fish management plan from 1988) cite this hatchery trout program as the primary culprit in depressing native trout populations on the McKenzie River.

-Wild McKenzie Rainbows are thriving in 38 river miles while ODFW is imposing a hatchery program its own officials call a “sacrifice zone” in 42.3 miles.

– Of 57 relatively easily navigable river miles 42 miles are heavily stocked with hatchery trout. That’s 74% of the navigable river.

Does this sound like a reasonable way to manage the McKenzie redside population – by wiping it out in the majority of the river?

For more background on this issue, please read the Register-Guard op-eds by Chris and myself, and Scott Kinney and Dave Vasquez.

For more on the fight to fix this…

Meeting with ODFW officials
On November 17, Trout Unlimited Chapter 678 officers Todd Mullen, Karl Mueller and I headed up to Molalla to meet with ODFW fisheries biologists to chat about the situation on the McKenzie River. We met with Charlie Corrarino, Conservation & Recovery Program Manager and Rhine Messmer, Recreational Fisheries Program Manager, as well as other top Oregon fisheries bureaucrats.

Oddly enough, here’s my horoscope from the Register-Guard that day:

You may be confused by the signals you are receiving from people you are dealing with right now. Listen carefully to be aware of what’s true and what isn’t.

Karl and I presented and discussed the McKenzie situation as best we could, and the response from ODFW officials was two-fold:

-Our district biologist Jeff Ziller has been on this watershed for three decades and he is going to make the calls, not a top-down management from agency officials.

-Any decisions Jeff makes on hatchery trout on the McKenzie will come from data he collects – which includes the 2009-2010 creel survey and the 2009 angler preference survey.

Further detail on the 2009 ODFW McKenzie River angler preference survey: As McKenzie Trout advocate Scott Kinney has pointed out, asking people fishing the hatchery zone on the McKenzie River is essentially like asking people at McDonald’s if they like Big Macs. It’s not a valid method for taking the pulse of the angling community.

And our District Bio Jeff Ziller agrees. Jeff says he’s not taking the pulse of the angling community – he’s comparing angler preferences on the river. This sounds like splitting hairs, but what he’s trying to figure out is how the people who are using the river have changed since the last McKenzie angler preference survey in 1986, not the preferences of anglers in the area at large.

He’s not trying to account for the large portion of anglers who don’t use the main section of the river because they don’t want to catch hatchery fish. If Jeff wanted to know how people felt about McKenzie hatchery trout in general, he said he’d conduct a random phone survey of licensed anglers in the area.

So what’s happening with all the angler preference surveys that got mailed in? Well, they’re being put in a separate pile for consideration. Along with all the surveys generated by folks opposed to reducing/removing hatchery trout on the McKenzie, like the 8-inch trout advocates at the McKenzie River Guides Association. Jeff has extended the deadline for folks to turn in their surveys to Dec 15th. So if you haven’t filled out your survey, or want to fill out more, download it here and mail it to:

Jeff Ziller, ODFW
3150 Main Street
Springfield, OR 97478

Next steps: Rounding up allies, educating anglers

ODFW is a public agency beholden to us, and if enough people express outrage that tax-payer dollars are funding the destruction of our wild fish resources, change will come. We’re currently reaching out to some key folks, including state legislators, county commissioners, travel and tourism agencies and ODFW commissioners. Please check out the top ten ways to make a difference on this issue if you’d like to support this effort.

The McKenzie Fly Fishers are currently undergoing a rigorous review of the situation and a committee headed by Arlen Thomason is gathering data to make the most informed and defensible decision possible as the club membership has multiple opinions on the issue. Arlen expects the club to have reached a decision by March. We support that process 100%.

The Cascade Family Fly Fishers is in a similar position. Jack Wheeler says that the organization is in the preliminary data gathering stage, and will discuss the situation at an upcoming December meeting.

Some important dates:
-On February 11th, wild trout advocates will publicly square off against the planter-pushers at the McKenzie Watershed Council meeting.
-TU is meeting with officials from Travel Lane County 1/13/09 to discuss the tourism agency’s position.

Keep your ear to the ground for some big updates after Thanksgiving weekend – The Caddis Fly, Trout Unlimited, The Native Fish Society and our good friends at Ninkasi Brewing are teaming up for a public outreach barrage – and we’ll need your help. It will likely involve drinking beer, volunteerism at its finest. Stay tuned.


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2 Responses to McKenzie River Hatchery trout reduction or removal update

  1. Rob R says:

    I’m thankful for Matt, Chris, Karl and Arlen!!!! And all the other activists that stand up for native fish!!!

  2. Moon says:

    I’m with Rob on this all the way…. Thanks guys, and thank you everyone.

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