Oregon’s Deschutes River will have a summer steelhead fishing season this year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announced. The summer steelhead fishing season in the Deschutes will open on August 15th. Over the past few years, wild steelhead returns have been so low that fishery managers have been forced to close many river systems in the Pacific Northwest. The Deschutes, one of the famous steelhead rivers in the PNW, closed its summer steelhead season last year as flows were extremely poor. Although this year’s steelhead (and salmon, for that matter) runs are looking good – especially compared to last year’s historically low levels – managers and stakeholders should not forget what the historic runs looked like. In the PNW, wild salmon and steelhead are fractions of what they looked like decades ago.
“We had to put 9,900 untagged steelhead over Bonneville Dam during the month of July to open the fishery on August 15 and get above levels of conservation concern,” said Jason Seals, ODFW Deschutes District fish biologist. “Thankfully, we have seen a recovery from last year’s low returns.” Last year’s returns prompted ODFW fisheries managers to develop a new management framework for the Deschutes. This framework separately evaluates Deschutes River fishing decisions based on three run count intervals.
“We still expect modest returns based on our projections for the Deschutes, but within abundance levels that fishing will have no population impacts,” he continued.
Conservation groups working to restore and protect wild salmon and steelhead streams in the PNW welcomed the improved runs, but don’t want to lose sight of the long-term goals of restored waterways and abundant, self-sustaining fisheries. Jennifer Fairbrother, Conservation Director of the Native Fish Association said, “We are excited that anglers will have the opportunity to connect with the Deschutes and the river’s amazing steelhead this year. At the same time, we remain aware that while this year is shaping up to be better for wild steelhead in the Columbia Basin than last, these runs are still well below their long-term and historical returns. We must all continue to advocate for the changes needed to stem the tide of decline and revive wild abundance.”
Celebrate this year’s improved runs, but remember what it will take to fully restore wild salmon and steelhead to the PNW, such as removal of four lower Snake River dams.
cover photo by @PatPerry
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