Expecting Low Returns, Fishing Closures On Deschutes River Announced To Protect Summer Steelhead

With another low run of summer steelhead forecast, angling closures for steelhead, bass and salmon will be in effect for parts of the Deschutes River this summer starting as early as June 1.

The closures are in keeping with the Deschutes River steelhead fishery framework that fishery managers presented earlier this year due to continued low forecasts for threatened summer steelhead runs to areas upriver of Bonneville Dam in the Columbia and Snake River Basins.

Last year’s upriver steelhead run to Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River was the lowest since records began in 1938, resulting in the first steelhead fishing closure on the Deschutes since 1978. Encounter rates from sport anglers that catch and release wild summer steelhead are typically high in mid-Columbia tributaries like the Deschutes, where fish stage before migrating to spawning areas throughout the Deschutes and Columbia Basin.

Pre-season forecasts for 2022 are similar to last year’s returns, so closures are necessary in these mixed stock fisheries even though anglers may be targeting hatchery steelhead.

Fisheries managers are predicting that the total run of summer steelhead this year will be 99,700 fish, with 31,600 of those fish wild. Last year’s preseason forecast was 101,400 fish, with an estimated 30,600 wild. However, the actual return was 31 percent lower at 69,699 fish, 21,880 wild.

Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife agencies also have implemented steelhead fishery restrictions throughout the Columbia River and tributaries since 2017 in order to minimize steelhead mortalities. Steps by the states to protect steelhead have included closing much of the mainstem Columbia River to steelhead angling during summer months, frontloading commercial fishing early in the seasons, establishing cold water sanctuaries in Oregon where retention of all salmon and steelhead is prohibited, closing a portion of Drano Lake in Washington near the Little White Salmon River mouth to steelhead angling, reduction of steelhead bag limits and hoot-owl restrictions (daytime closures at 2 pm when temperatures become too warm).

The closures have also helped hatcheries meet their broodstock needs to ensure the next generation of hatchery steelhead.

A hopeful sign for improvements to the size of future steelhead runs, as well as runs of salmon, is the recent NOAA estimation of 2021 ocean conditions, which showed the second best conditions in 24 years. Only 2008 ocean conditions were better. The improved conditions should result in better ocean survival and better adult returns.

As more summer steelhead pass Bonneville Dam from summer through fall, fishing seasons will be adjusted. Anglers should always check the Recreation Report for their fishing zone as regulations can change quickly, https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/central-zone

Under temporary rules adopted for the Deschutes River today:

•         Steelhead and bass fishing is closed from June 1-Aug. 15 from the mouth at the west bound I-84 Bridge upstream to Pelton Dam.

•         Chinook salmon fishing is closed from Aug. 1-15 from the mouth at the west bound I-84 Bridge upstream to upper railroad trestle (approx 3 miles downstream from Sherars Falls).

•         Coho salmon fishing is closed from Aug. 1-15 from the mouth at the west bound I-84 Bridge upstream to upper railroad trestle (approximately 3 miles downstream from Sherars Falls) and from Sherars Falls upstream to Pelton Dam.

Normally under permanent regulations hatchery steelhead fishing is open all year, coho fishing is open Aug. 1-Dec.31 and Chinook fishing is open Aug. 1-Oct. 31. Salmon fishing closures are needed during these time periods as salmon anglers may encounter wild steelhead.

Trout fishing remains open on the Deschutes River as there is less risk that trout anglers will encounter wild steelhead. Anglers should take extra steps to avoid targeting steelhead and safely release them if caught, see tips at https://myodfw.com/articles/tips-avoiding-steelhead-when-fishing

For more information about steelhead management in the Columbia River and tributaries, see https://myodfw.com/articles/steelhead-management-columbia-snake-river-basins

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