Another Challenging Year for Wild Summer Steelhead
Hot summers, warm water, harvest and bycatch, poor ocean conditions, dams, water diversion, hatchery influences, habitat degradation, sea lions, and yes, anglers. I hate to sound “doom and gloom” but the summer steelhead returns on the Columbia do make me gloomy. The threats to wild steelhead recovery continue to loom very large. Progress to restore habitat are laudable, yet we continue to see the returns dwindle. We may be approaching drastic times for which drastic measures will be necessary to prevent total loss of the B run fish that venture to the upper Columbia tributaries. The Conservation Angler carefully tracks salmon and steelhead returns on the Columbia and makes the data easy to understand. By looking at this year’s numbers compared to the past ten year average (TYA), you can see that our wild fish are declining to dangerous levels. And all the money and effort put into hatchery supplementation is flowing out of the hatchery and not coming back (not to mention their negative effects on the wild fish). Here are recent numbers provided by David Moskowitz, Executive Director of The Conservation Angler:
Columbia Summer Steelhead Past Bonneville: July 1 – August 15
Steelhead are bound for the Klickitat, Deschutes, John Day, Umatilla, and other rivers in the Upper Columbia and Snake Basins such as the Grand Ronde, Clearwater, Salmon and Imnaha.
Forecast for Upriver Summer Steelhead: 118,200 total A & B-run (38% of TYA)
Pre-season Forecast for A-run CR Steelhead past BON: 110,200 (hatchery & wild)
Pre-season Forecast for B-run CR Steelhead past BON: 8,000 (hatchery & wild)
Pre-season Forecast for wild A-run CR Steelhead past BON: 33,900
Pre-season Forecast for wild B-run CR Steelhead past BON: 950
Current Summer Steelhead Past BON (July 1 – Aug 15): 40,080 (27.1% of TYA)
Current Wild Steelhead Past BON (July 1 – Aug 15): 23,091 (37.4% of TYA)
Last month Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued fishing closures in the Columbia at the mouth of the Deschutes and on the Deschutes downstream from Moody Rapids. The closure extends through September 15th. If you are headed out to the D, make sure to check the latest regulations.
Comment on Removal of Columbia River Pinnipeds
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has opened a 60 day comment period for a proposal submitted by the fish and wildlife agencies of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, along with several tribes, to remove California and Stellar sea lions on sections on the Columbia River by lethal means. The announcement states, “This action is intended to reduce or eliminate sea lion predation on the fishery stocks that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.” Click here to see the document and submit your comments by October 29, 2019.
Please check water conditions before heading out to fish. If the water is 68 degrees or warmer, a hooked steelhead may become a dead steelhead. Please double check to make sure your barbs are crushed. And if you want a picture, leave the fish in the water where it can breathe. The link below provides evidence-based suggestions for anglers to help reduce the harm they may inflict on their catch.
For the steelhead,