All Gamefish Limits Lifted At Eastern Oregon Reservoir Due To Drought, Low Water

Due to drought conditions and low water levels, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted all size limits (minimum and maximum), daily limits for all species of fish and gear limits from Oct. 11 through Dec. 31, 2021, in the Malheur Reservoir.

The reservoir has very limited water due to low winter and spring precipitation and exceptionally warm temperatures. ODFW staff have observed fish kills during previous winters when such conditions exist. Based on the developing La Nina and associated projections for a cooler winter, ODFW believes there is a high likelihood that conditions in the reservoir will become lethal for fish this winter.

The Eastern Oregon reservoir is on Willow Creek, which empties into the Snake River at Ontario.

“I’m not one to take lightly the liberalization of limits and gear restrictions but given the current water levels and past experience we expect fish will die during the winter due to low oxygen levels,” said Dave Banks, District Fish Biologist, ODFW. “My goal with the removal of limits and gear restrictions is to provide opportunities for anglers to use these fish,” Banks added. 

ODFW plans to restock the reservoir next spring to begin rebuilding the fishery. Malheur Reservoir is a productive waterbody that will grow three-to-four-inch fingerling rainbow trout stocked in the spring into eight-to-11-inch fish by the fall. Those same fish will be 14 to 16 inches by their second fall in the reservoir. 

Low water levels during the fall and ice in winter creates a low oxygen level situation that could be lethal for fish survival. When the reservoir surface freezes, it will trap any remaining oxygen under the ice. 

“This would give the fish a very low oxygen supply to persist throughout the winter and normally results in fish dying under the ice,” said Banks.

ODFW encourages anglers to keep any fish that they catch because this will improve the likelihood of survival of fish that remain in the reservoir through the winter.

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