To Protect Native Fish In Hot Streams, ODFW Curtails Afternoon, Evening Angling , Closes Some Sections Entirely

To protect fish during these unprecedented water conditions, ODFW is rolling out “hoot owl” restrictions and closures on streams across the state that go into effect this Saturday.

Pointing to high temperatures and low flows, the agency says that all Oregon waters defined as streams will be closed above tidewater to fishing for steelhead, salmon, trout and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to an hour before sunrise starting July 18.

Additionally, angling will be closed for those species all day on the Willamette River below the falls, the Multnomah Channel, Gilbert River, and Clackamas River up to I-205.

There are also section closures on the John Day, its middle and north forks.

ODFW’s Bruce McIntosh said the agency is trying to be proactive and protect the fish as much as possible.

Just yesterday, 109 Chinook were reported dead on the John Day due to low, warm water conditions, and sturgeon are being found dead up and down the Columbia, including at least 60 between McNary Dam and Boardman.

Though the cause of death of those sturgeon isn’t clear, minimal snowpack, above normal temperatures and odd ocean conditions have combined to create a long-term weather pattern that is beyond anything we’ve seen before.

“I was just telling someone, we can’t see the freight train coming down the tracks because we haven’t experienced anything like this,” said McIntosh.

Washington fishery managers have also been considering a suite of restrictions to reduce impacts on steelhead, trout and salmon.

Some Oregon rivers, however, will stay open under normal hours and rules because they’re less affected by the hot water because they’re tailwaters, fed by springs or cooled by tides (see below).

The Columbia and Snake are among those.

And fishing for bass, panfish, catfish and other warmwater game fish remains open.

“At NSIA, we understand and support the need to do our part to help on the fishing side. But the only thing that will save these fish is reduced river temperatures,” said the organization’s director Liz Hamilton. “We pray that these fish die-offs will motivate state and private landowners to review and improve riparian cover, as well as initiate a review of how reservoir levels are managed during years of low snow pack and a renewed look at temperature regulating towers and other methods of reducing stream temperatures.”

Here is ODFW’s press release in full:

ODFW takes action to help native fish

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has curtailed fishing hours on most of Oregon’s rivers to avoid additional stress on native fish already suffering from high water temperatures and low stream flows from this year’s drought.

Effective Saturday, July 18, and until further notice, all waterbodies defined as streams in the 2015 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations are closed above tidewater (where applicable) to fishing for trout salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise.

Angling for these species will be prohibited at all times in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls, including the Clackamas River up to the Interstate 205 Bridge, the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River.

The following sections of the John Day River will also have complete closures:  The mainstem of the John Day River above Indian Creek near Prairie City; the Middle Fork of the John Day River above Mosquito Creek near the town of Galena; the North Fork of the John Day River above Desolation Creek and Desolation Creek.

Some streams will remain open for angling under normal hours because they are less prone to high water temperature risks due to springs, tides, cold water releases from some dams and high elevations.

Streams that will remain open for angling under normal hours are:

Northeast Zone:

·        The Wallowa River above Sunrise Road; Lostine River above Pole Bridge Campground; Prairie Creek; Hurricane Creek; Spring Creek; and all streams within the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.

Southeast Zone:

·        The Malheur River and its tributaries; the Owyhee River below the Owyhee Reservoir; and the Blitzen River and its tributaries above Page Springs Weir and Bridge Creek.

·        The Klamath River and its tributaries.

Central Zone:

·        The Deschutes River above Macks Canyon; the Metolius River; the Fall River; the Crooked River (from mouth to Bowman Dam); and Tumalo Creek.

·        The Hood River and its tributaries and the White River and its tributaries.
Central Zone:

·        The Deschutes River above Macks Canyon; the Metolius River; the Fall River; the Crooked River (from mouth to Bowman Dam); and Tumalo Creek.

·        The Hood River and its tributaries and the White River and its tributaries.

Willamette Zone:

·        The McKenzie River and its tributaries; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River below Dexter Dam; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and its tributaries above Lookout Point Reservoir; and Alton Baker Canoe Canal.

·        The mainstem of the South Santiam River below Foster Dam; Quartzville Creek; the North Santiam River above Detroit Lake; and the Breitenbush River.

Southwest Zone:

·        The mainstem Rogue River from Fishers Ferry upstream to William Jess Dam and all tributaries upstream of the William Jess Dam and Lost Creek Reservoir.

Angling in the mainstem Columbia River and mainstem Snake River is not affected by today’s action, and angling hours in these areas will remain under normal regulations at this time.  However, a Columbia River Compact/Joint State hearing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 via teleconference to discuss curtailment of recreational catch-and-release sturgeon fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

“Earlier this month, we indicated that if these drought conditions continued, we may have to close or restrict some fisheries,” said Mike Gauvin, ODFW’s recreation fisheries manager. “These are difficult, but necessary actions to protect native fish already suffering from extreme drought conditions.”

“This doesn’t mean that all fishing has to stop.” According to Gauvin, most streams will still be open in the early hours when water temperatures are cool, and there are many great fishing opportunities in lakes, reservoirs for hatchery stocked rainbow trout, warmwater fish like, smallmouth bass or crappie, as well as all of the ocean fisheries.

“As extreme weather events become more frequent due to climate change, we need to be prepared for the stress these conditions will have on fish, wildlife and their habitats,” Ed Bowles, Fish Division Administrator said.

“Planning for the effects of these changing climatic conditions presents a unique challenge for us, yet we are committed to doing our best to enhance resiliency to climate change and avoid significant impacts on our natural resources.”

ODFW already implemented emergency regulations on several other rivers. In addition, trout stocking schedules and locations have been adjusted and some hatchery fish have been released early as a result of high water temperatures. Elevated water temperatures have led to salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon deaths in several rivers.

Gauvin encourages the public to report sightings of stranded fish, or other wildlife distressed by drought, to their local ODFW office and to take precautions when fishing during these drought conditions.

On days when temperatures soar, anglers can do their part to reduce the stress on fish by adopting the following measures:

• Fish early in day when water temperatures are cooler.

• Use a thermometer to check water temperatures frequently. Stop fishing when temperatures exceed 70 degrees.

• Consider changing locations to high elevation lakes or shaded streams near headwaters. These places are often cooler.

• Use barbless hooks so you can release fish easily without harming them.

• Use the appropriate gear and land fish quickly. The longer the fight, the less likely the fish will survive.

• Keep the fish in the water when you unhook it and cradle the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.

• Use your judgement. If conditions where you want to fish seem especially severe (low, hot water), consider fishing somewhere else where water conditions are better.

• Check the regulation update pages on the ODFW website before you head out to make sure temporary emergency regulations have not been put in place for the waters you want to fish.

Gauvin recommends anglers check the weekly Recreation Report on the ODFW website for updates on stocking, water conditions and boating access.

In addition to fish and fishing related actions, the dry, warm weather could increase the danger of wildfires. Wildland fires can destroy hundreds, sometimes thousands, of acres of habitat. Late season fires may also affect hunting season dates, hunting opportunities and the condition of winter range for deer, elk and other species. Fewer water holes means wildlife will have to travel farther for water. Leave wildlife access to water by not camping at water sources.

Less water will also increase competition for placement of hunting blinds amongst hunters. Setting up a blind at a water hole is a common and lawful practice but hunters are asked to be extra considerate of other hunters and wildlife this year. Also, follow land manager’s regulations and don’t set up blinds too early or leave them indefinitely. BLM allows hunting blinds to be up for 10 days. U.S. Forest Service requires a permit and also has a time limitation.

The Bureau of Land Management does not allow camping within 300 feet of water sources; U.S. Forest Service rules vary by forest and area.

See the Oregon Department of Forestry’s webpage for latest fire restrictions and check their Corporate Closure page for information about access to private timberland, or call the landowner.

In the effort to raise awareness of the dire conditions that Oregon faces this summer, Governor Brown’s office has created a website for more information,www.drought.oregon.gov, and launched the “#ORdrought” campaign.

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