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Save Our Wild Salmon

steelhead nps2 391 205 80autoFriday, August 10, 2018

Rising water temperatures and poor passage are causing Oregon and Washington fishery managers to shut down fishing at the mouth of the Deschutes River in Oregon and the mouth of the Yakima River in Washington.

Oregon closed to all fishing, including catch and release, the mouth of the Deschutes Aug. 9 in order to protect summer steelhead that may be taking sanctuary in the cooler water provided by the tributary of the Columbia River, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.

In addition, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed to sockeye and summer salmon angling what is effectively the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers from the Highway 395 Bridge upstream to the Interstate 182 Bridge. The closure is Aug. 6 through Aug. 15.

WDFW said in a notice to anglers ( that elevated water temperatures in the Yakima River has resulted in a barrier to fish passage. Sockeye returning to the Yakima River Basin are vulnerable to over harvest while staging in the Columbia River at the Yakima River confluence.

Effective Aug.16 all areas of the Columbia River between Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam will be closed to the harvest of sockeye, WDFW said.

Some 155,347 sockeye have passed McNary Dam (the next dam downstream of the Yakima River) as of Aug. 8, or 68 percent of the 10-year average of 230,103. On this date last year, 63,878 had passed McNary Dam. Of this year’s passage at McNary, 656 were endangered Snake River sockeye that were counted at Ice Harbor Dam. That’s 69 percent of the 10 year average on this date of 957 fish. Last year, the number of Snake River sockeye on this date was 391. Just 268 sockeye passed Lower Granite Dam, the upper of the four lower Snake River dams.

At its Aug. 3 meeting in Salem, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission had directed ODFW staff to amend fishing regulations for the Columbia River near the Deschutes and in the lower Deschutes from the mouth upstream to Moody Rapids. The direction included closing this area to all fishing until river temperatures have stabilized below 68 F.

According to ODFW, the staff will continue to monitor river temperatures and run sizes throughout the fall to determine when the area can be reopened. This is unlikely to occur prior to late-September, the agency said.

Concerns about the vulnerability of fish to fishing pressure in the mouths of some tributaries of the Columbia River were sparked by the historically low returns of Snake River-bound summer steelhead in 2017, ODFW said. At that time the states of Oregon and Washington adopted unprecedented restrictions, including rolling closures of steelhead retention, to several fisheries to reduce mortality on these fish. In June 2018, ODFW staff outlined for the Commission a plan to take a comprehensive look at potential thermal sanctuaries throughout the Columbia River. That review process will include a series of public meetings in the fall of 2018 followed by rulemaking in early 2019.

According to the Fish Passage Center, as of Aug. 8 some 44,526 steelhead (34 percent of the 10-year average of 132,058 for that date) had passed Bonneville Dam, including 19,481 wild fish (also 34 percent of the 10-year average of 57,969). Last year on this date, passage was 33,486 steelhead, including 15,683 wild.

The Conservation Angler, a wild fish conservation organization approved of the closure, calling the closed area a cold water refuge.

“While current regulations require many wild fish to be released unharmed, the lethal and sub-lethal effects of encounters in the fisheries (both indirect and direct) can and does have an impact on their fitness, survival and productivity,” said David Moskowitz, executive director of The Conservation Angler. “The very low wild summer steelhead run-size and the extreme heat and its effect on water temperatures really make this sanctuary area a critical conservation action for the entire Columbia River above Bonneville Dam.”

The closed areas at the Deschutes River mouth are:

--All waters south of a straight line projecting from the flashing red USCG light #2 upstream to the lower South Channel Range B marker located approximately 3/4-mile upstream of the mouth of the Deschutes;

--The lower Deschutes River from the mouth upstream to markers placed on the downstream end of Moody Rapids.

Also see:

--CBB, August 26, 2016, “Identifying, Preserving Columbia/Snake Cold Water Refuges Important Salmon Recovery Tool,”




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