North Umpqua Wild Steelhead News

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April 23rd -From the North Umpqua Coalition

Oregon Steps Up Protections for Imperiled North Umpqua Summer Steelhead

Hatchery program ended to aid recovery of iconic wild fish

ASTORIA, Ore. – Today, after four hours of presentation, comment, and deliberation, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to end the summer steelhead hatchery program on the North Umpqua River. By beginning the transition to an all-wild-fish management strategy, the Commission has protected imperiled wild summer steelhead from the negative impacts of hatchery fish.

“We are thrilled to see the Commission end the hatchery summer steelhead program,” Steamboaters Board of Directors Member Karl Konecny said. “The continued presence of hatchery fish on the spawning beds would have slowed the recovery and depressed the eventual size of the wild steelhead run.”

Over the past year, the Commission and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife took initial measures to protect and evaluate the health of wild summer steelhead in response to severe declines in fish returns. In the summer of 2021, ODFW district staff closed sport fisheries on the mainstem Umpqua and North Umpqua rivers in response to the lowest return of wild summer steelhead on record. Earlier this spring, ODFW published a thorough assessment of wild summer steelhead health throughout the North Umpqua basin and initiated critical monitoring programs for future runs. By ending the hatchery program, the Commission has taken another crucial step on the path to recovery of wild North Umpqua summer steelhead.

“We’re fortunate that both the Commission and ODFW are stepping up and protecting these fish when they need it most,” Native Fish Society Executive Director Mark Sherwood said. “But we don’t take this lightly. As a coalition, we’re committed to reviving these fish and restoring this fishery. And the way to do both is by focusing our efforts on the revival of wild populations and the habitats that support and sustain us all. I’m looking forward to the day when wild steelhead are so abundant in the North Umpqua that anglers can legally bring a fish home and share it with their family and friends. Thanks to the Commission’s courageous decision today, I think we’ll get there.”

Wild summer steelhead are a critical and iconic population that have been the focus of more than 80 years of conservation actions from both local and worldwide anglers. For local anglers and conservationists the severe declines in the wild summer steelhead population were once again a call to action on behalf of these storied fish.

“The Fish and Wildlife Commission took courageous and science-based action to protect North Umpqua wild summer steelhead – one of the world’s most iconic and unique steelhead runs. The vote put wild fish first” said David Moskowitz, Executive Director of The Conservation Angler, a northwest wild fish advocacy organization.

Unlike their declining summer counterparts, the North Umpqua boasts the healthiest wild population of winter steelhead on the entire Oregon Coast. That run’s strength is thanks in part to the absence of a hatchery program.

“In recent times, science has taught us a great deal about steelhead and how the seasonal runs are genetically distinct from one another. While the North Umpqua winter steelhead run appears healthy, the genetically distinct summer steelhead simply is not. We expect the actions taken recently to help, but we must maintain a careful eye on these important fish and continue to fight for their existence. As a society, we cannot afford to lose them,” said Mike Morrison, President of Pacific Rivers.

The North Umpqua Coalition and wild fish advocates throughout the Pacific Northwest owe the Commission a debt of gratitude for taking action on behalf of this iconic run and the future of this legendary fishery. For our part, we remain committed to working with ODFW, the local community, and respective Tribal Nations to revive wild summer steelhead so that current and future generations can enjoy the fish that embody the wild and rugged spirit of the North Umpqua River.

“We are grateful the Commissioners recognize the importance of wild summer steelhead of the North Umpqua River and took such bold and necessary action. We remain committed to assisting with habitat restoration, addressing predation issues, and ensuring the North Umpqua River is a place that these fish can continue to call home for future generations,” says Jennifer Fairbrother, Conservation Director for the Native Fish Society.

“I never thought this would happen in my lifetime. I’m sure that somewhere Frank Moore is dancing and singing!” Tim Goforth, former Steamboaters President.

“The Oregon Council of Fly Fishers International, Inc. (ORCFFI) is grateful to the ODFW Commission for their decision to eliminate the summer steelhead hatchery program on the North Umpqua River. The Council believes this will aid in the recovery of this declining wild population. The Council’s goals are to preserve wild steelhead genetic and life history diversity and to restore wild steelhead stocks to historical abundance through habitat restoration and reductions in the scope and magnitude of hatchery stocking practices. Many thanks to the Commission, the Department, and the staff for all they do to protect and preserve our land and wildlife. The Council is also indebted to the North Umpqua Coalition for all the time, effort, and research that contributed to the Commission’s decision. Thank you.”
Stephen P. Maher, President, ORCFFI

The North Umpqua Coalition includes:
Native Fish Society * Pacific Rivers * Trout Unlimited * The North Umpqua Foundation
The Steamboaters * Umpqua Watersheds * The Conservation Angler * Wild Steelheaders United
* Oregon Council of Flyfishers International *

This entry was posted in North Umpqua River Fishing Reports, Oregon Conservation News, Oregon Fly Fishing Clubs and Events, Oregon fly fishing links, Summer Steelhead. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to North Umpqua Wild Steelhead News

  1. Phil says:

    This article saddened me as I see the native fish society mentality winning.
    I live on the Trask River – a River with what used to have an “Iconic” reputation for being one of the leading salmon steelhead rivers in Oregon.
    Me in my early 60’s – I’ve fished this river the majority of my life. I’ve seen what ODFW has done to our fishery. OMGosh some of the things that they’ve done over the years are just plain idiotic. And they keep doing things trying different ideas like our salmon are experiments. To me – ODFW should stick with proven tactics and stop Experimenting on our salmon. Just because someone comes up with an idea; doesn’t make it a good idea idea.
    I had a conversation with guy about a year ago about fishing. He and his wife seemed to be a very nice couple, he, a recently retired man on his very nice property “on Wilson River” with amazing salmon hole view. He talked about how he used to see salmon roll in the hole all the time. But not so much in recent years. Then he started boasting about fly fishing adventures domestic and abroad. Then he boasted being a Marine Biologist then he Boasted having the Law degree. Then he boasted Oregon State and ODFW hired him to legally shut down all private hatcheries, hatch box programs, and force certain State hatcheries into closure. Like what the State did with our East Fork hatchery in the Trask river back in July of 2016. The state of Oregon didn’t just shut down the Hatchery. The State paid deconstruction crews to come in and remove the hatchery with heavy equipment.
    How I know this is because I saw the Trask turn from beautiful kemerald green to a White Chalky with zero visibility “several Fridays” in a row back then. I followed the White Chalky water to its source. (Pictures to prove) and found the East Fork Hatchery was being removed. When I approached and asked what they were doing. Several State reps were there and deconstruction Crew. I guess if your the State you can pollute without any recourse and get away with it. And now it is illegal for individuals to access that state property….
    Since they shut down our Trask East Fork hatchery – our runs have Never Been Worse. Yes – I realize change doesn’t happen immediately with letting them rebound by themselves. However they put many of our hatcheries in place up too and over a century ago.
    They did this for a reason back then. We love to eat fish and catch fish..
    I’ve heard talk about shutting down and restricting seasons – and yes we have more and more restrictions on our seasons every year. You hear talk about shutting down “all fishing” to allow them rebound naturally.
    And this is one of the points that the Lawyer Marine Biologist stated to me. He wanted to see “ALL Fishing and Hatcheries” shut down to let Salmon & Steelhead rebound naturally.
    While I was listening to this Oregon State Lawyer / Marine Biologist talk about his Fly fishing experience’s domestic and abroad. I just had to wonder how these people think.
    Where do they get these ideas that they are smarter than the professionals and sportsman that have lived in the real world of fishing.
    Does college education turn their brains into mush or were they always just stupid.
    I get it about global warming climate change and keeping habitat clean & healthy.
    But Salmon Steelhead is a sustainable species proven from century old Technology. And what Native Fish society mentality is going to achieve is catch and release fly fishing streams for elitist’s.
    I “used” to use a fly rod fishing trout & loved it. Not any more… Now when I see people fly fishing on a raft floating by my fishing holes on the Trask. I look at them with wonder – are they the ones that voted the Closure of the perfectly good East Fork Hatchery that helped create countless iconic salmon steelhead runs on the Trask. I almost never see any salmon splash or see them swim in deep holes anymore where before hatchery closure it was common everywhere.
    Native Fish Society should use proven science in many areas around this planet – but Leave our coastal Salmon and Steelhead hatcheries alone…. Their unproven science has been shot down by the related scientific community. But somehow they seem to be winning out at top level ODFW & Oregon State. Their voice should be heard but shouldn’t outweigh common sense with over a century of tried and proven science & technology especially when it comes to NW Salmon & Steelhead.
    Please look at some of the other “known” (there are many) factors of the decline of Native Fish populations before turning out rivers and streams into catch and release fly fishing
    adventures.
    Regards
    Phil

  2. K. B. McHugh says:

    this is nothing more than feel-good nonsense and I’m sad to see The Caddis Fly Shop in favor of the new regulations.

    If ODFW doesn’t end all steelhead fishing in the North Umpqua, there won’t be a resurgence of the species, they’ll continue to decline until they’re extirpated. Every angel knows catch and release is not an effective strategy for species protection or species recovery and there’s more than enough published papers to be found on the topic.

    Steelhead, especially, are prone to high incidence of post-release mortality if they’re allowed to thrash about on gravel, both in the water and out. If you aren’t mid-stream, it’s nearly impossible to get one to a position where one can both release the hook and protect the fish.

    This will be a great way for a few NGO’s to garner additional funding, but it isn’t helping the resource.

    ODFW should stop managing the fishery and start helping it recover. Really recover.

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