ODFW moves to protect salmon; trout stocking through Labor Day

In a move to protect wild salmon, and ensure ample broodstock numbers, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) took protective measures and closed a section of the McKenzie River to salmon fishing.

The closure extends downriver from Leaburg Dam to the mouth of Trout Creek. A small tributary that pours from the McKenzie’s south bank is the first tributary on your left as you float downriver. The closure began on July 15 and extends through the end of December.

I have devoted plenty of column space to this year’s disappointing spring salmon run but remain hopeful for future years. In general, the shortage of spring salmon this year was caused by the Holiday Farm Fire. A more complete explanation is now posted on the ODFW’s website:  dfw.state.or.us/news/2023/07_Jul/070723.asp

In other salmon news, if you check the 2023 fishing regulations manual you will find that the bay fishing season on the Siuslaw and other rivers in the Northwest Angling Zone is listed as a two-salmon-per-day, 20-per-season fishery. Which I will suggest is nothing more than “wishful thinking.” In order to ensure a full fall season of bay salmon fishing this year, the ODFW, after reviewing salmon abundance reports and taking input from just over 700 anglers, has finalized the 2023 bay fishing season’s regulations at one chinook salmon per day and two per season. Their survey found that most anglers preferred a guaranteed full 2023 season with a smaller chinook bag limit in 2023. 

Rather than the possibility of being shut down in mid-season, there are a small handful of hatcheries along the coast that raise hatchery chinook but most chinook spawn in the wild. They have been hampered in the past several years by drought, warming temperatures and other climatic changes. Still on the docket are wild coho. At press time a single coho per fall bay fishing season was only pending approval from the National Marine Fisheries Service. With a greatly reduced bag limit and the apparent abundance of wild coho this season, that approval should be coming. 

Not everyone is happy with this season’s greatly reduced bag limits. A group of north central coast river guides have notified the ODFW of its intentions to challenge the OFDW’s 2023 limits on what it says are an “inaccurate assessment of the overall abundance of salmon along the Oregon coast.” I have to admit that a three-salmon season is meager at best, and the group’s concern that too few anglers would be willing to pay the going rate for the chance to land only a single fish are well-founded. As a private boater, I will also have to consider whether the cost of launching my boat on any bay salmon fishery is worth the expense of committing to a day of fishing the coast. 

Doing the math, when the cost of a single salmon landed in my own boat starts to reach a $15 per-pound average, I go trout fishing instead. I share the sentiments of this group of river guides but would have rather seen them highlight the economic impact of a three-salmon season, as opposed to what is a challenge of the science that the ODFW uses to make its seasonal forecasts. This is an interesting challenge and I will keep you posted.

Record-setting temperatures over the past few weeks have been the lead story for many news sources. We got some relief this week but we will return to temperatures in the 90s by next week. With the exception of Alton Baker Canoe Canal, which was stocked with several hundred rainbow trout, the heat has shut down all the fishing in the many ponds that dot the Willamette Valley floor. 

In our area, Junction City Pond and Row River Nature Park will likely not be replenished until 2024. And although the ODFW trout-stocking program is beginning to wind down for the year, the hatchery trucks still have deliveries scheduled for at least the next 30 days. … 

Recently stocked waterways include the McKenzie River above and below Leaburg Dam, Leaburg Lake and the Alton Baker Canoe Canal. Leaburg Lake, Alton Baker Canoe Canal and the McKenzie River above Leaburg Lake are scheduled to be stocked with trout this week that should be well-acclimated to their new home soon.

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