Last Thursday, shortly after the newsletter hit your inbox, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife saw fit to issue a press release regarding new regulations put in place to protect fish during this unusually hot water situation we are currently experiencing. A curtailment of angling after 2:00PM on most Oregon steams went into effect on Saturday, July 18th. This regulation still provides for angling in the early hours of the day, while protecting fish during the afternoon when temperatures climb. In the weeks leading up to this announcement I had tried to inform my readers about the issue and called for better understanding of the stresses put on salmonids during warm water events.
ODFW did well in calling for sweeping changes to fishing hours to protect native fish in some of our most at-risk waters. This move is needed and overdue. The only problem with this press release was how it was interpreted by the press. Perhaps the news didn't have the ratings grabbing bite needed to pull viewers away from footage of freshly minted baby otters at a zoo in Ottawa. Whatever. Before you could say "news at eleven" words like "most" had morphed into "all" and we were thrust into the middle of a fly fishing zombie apocalypse.
Damage control failed to get any response from local press so informed guides, shop owners and anglers took to social media to squelch the rumors. Those level headed individuals actually read the press release beyond the first two paragraphs and understood the issue. Word is slowly spreading across the land and fewer freaked out fly fishers are rolling into the shop. Let me clarify a just few things that seem to be too complicated for the mainstream press.
Most of the Deschutes River remains open to angling without any additional time restrictions. The 2:00PM closure effects the last 23.5 miles of the river from Macks Canyon to the mouth. Water temperatures in this section have improved slightly, but still warrant caution from anglers when fishing these waters. If temperatures continue to drop with cool water releases from Pelton Dam combined with more favorable weather, we may see that restriction lifted. It is advisable to still carry a thermometer and curtail fishing when temps exceed 65. All of the river upstream of Macks Canyon (75+ miles) remains open for normal angling hours. Water temps currently range between 53-62 depending on location and weather.
The Metolius, Fall and Crooked rivers remain open for regular angling hours.
The North Umpqua does fall under these new regulations and closes for angling at 2:00PM until one hour before sunrise
All angling for carp, bass, shad, catfish, perch, bullheads, suckers and other non-salmonids, with the exception of sturgeon, remains open in all waters including the Willamette for all normally legal angling hours. This new regulation only effects angling for Trout, Steelhead, Salmon and Sturgeon.
I am posting the ODFW press release below and highlighting in bold some of the things overlooked by the news folks. Maybe not as entertaining as freshly minted baby otters, but it's news you can use.
Taken from ODFWs press release...
Thursday, July 16, 2015
SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has curtailed fishing hours on most of Oregon’s rivers to avoid additional stress on native fish already suffering from high water temperatures and low stream flows from this year’s drought.
Effective Saturday, July 18, and until further notice, all waterbodies defined as streams in the 2015 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations are closed above tidewater (where applicable) to fishing for trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise.
Angling for these species will be prohibited at all times in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls, including the Clackamas River up to the Interstate 205 Bridge, the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River. The following sections of the John Day River will also have complete closures: The mainstem of the John Day River above Indian Creek near Prairie City; the Middle Fork of the John Day River above Mosquito Creek near the town of Galena; the North Fork of the John Day River above Desolation Creek and Desolation Creek.
Some streams will remain open for angling under normal hours because they are less prone to high water temperature risks due to springs, tides, cold water releases from some dams and high elevations.
Streams that will remain open for angling under normal hours are:
The Wallowa River above Sunrise Road; Lostine River above Pole Bridge Campground; Prairie Creek; Hurricane Creek; Spring Creek; and all streams within the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.
The Malheur River and its tributaries; the Owyhee River below the Owyhee Reservoir; and the Blitzen River and its tributaries above Page Springs Weir and Bridge Creek.
The Klamath River and its tributaries.
The Deschutes River above Macks Canyon; the Metolius River; the Fall River; the Crooked River (from mouth to Bowman Dam); and Tumalo Creek.
The Hood River and its tributaries and the White River and its tributaries.
The McKenzie River and its tributaries; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River below Dexter Dam; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and its tributaries above Lookout Point Reservoir; and Alton Baker Canoe Canal.
The mainstem of the South Santiam River below Foster Dam; Quartzville Creek; the North Santiam River above Detroit Lake; and the Breitenbush River.
The mainstem Rogue River from Fishers Ferry upstream to William Jess Dam and all tributaries upstream of the William Jess Dam and Lost Creek Reservoir.
Angling in the mainstem Columbia River and mainstem Snake River is not affected by today’s action, and angling hours in these areas will remain under normal regulations at this time. However, a Columbia River Compact/Joint State hearing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 via teleconference to discuss curtailment of recreational catch-and-release sturgeon fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.
“Earlier this month, we indicated that if these drought conditions continued, we may have to close or restrict some fisheries,” said Mike Gauvin, ODFW’s recreation fisheries manager. “These are difficult, but necessary actions to protect native fish already suffering from extreme drought conditions.”
“This doesn’t mean that all fishing has to stop.” According to Gauvin, most streams will still be open in the early hours when water temperatures are cool, and there are many great fishing opportunities in lakes, reservoirs for hatchery stocked rainbow trout, warmwater fish like, smallmouth bass or crappie, as well as all of the ocean fisheries.
“As extreme weather events become more frequent due to climate change, we need to be prepared for the stress these conditions will have on fish, wildlife and their habitats,” Ed Bowles, Fish Division Administrator said. “Planning for the effects of these changing climatic conditions presents a unique challenge for us, yet we are committed to doing our best to enhance resiliency to climate change and avoid significant impacts on our natural resources.”
ODFW already implemented emergency regulations on several other rivers. In addition, trout stocking schedules and locations have been adjusted and some hatchery fish have been released early as a result of high water temperatures. Elevated water temperatures have led to salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon deaths in several rivers.
Gauvin encourages the public to report sightings of stranded fish, or other wildlife distressed by drought, to the department and to take precautions when fishing during these drought conditions.
On days when temperatures soar, anglers can do their part to reduce the stress on fish by adopting the following measures:
Fish early in day when water temperatures are cooler.
Use a thermometer to check water temperatures frequently. Stop fishing when temperatures exceed 70 degrees.
Consider changing locations to high elevation lakes or shaded streams near headwaters. These places are often cooler.
Use barbless hooks so you can release fish easily without harming them.
Use the appropriate gear and land fish quickly. The longer the fight, the less likely the fish will survive.
Keep the fish in the water when you unhook it and cradle the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.
Use your judgement. If conditions where you want to fish seem especially severe (low, hot water), consider fishing somewhere else where water conditions are better.
Check the regulation update pages on the ODFW website before you head out to make sure temporary emergency regulations have not been put in place for the waters you want to fish.
Gauvin recommends anglers check the weekly Recreation Report on the ODFW website for updates on stocking, water conditions and boating access.
END OF RELEASE
First we'll start with the basics. For salmonids to survive a return home, water temperatures need to remain below 68 degrees fahrenheit . This number, from my brief research, will allow upstream migration of anadromous salmonids ( Chinook, Steelhead) that are genetically prepared to survive warmer flows. Some salmonids ( like sockeye) are not as robust and will not do as well in these conditions. It is very important to note that the survival of all of this fish at this temperature is dependent on the lack of outside stresses. Meaning simply, not fighting for their lives on a end of a line or being chased by a predator. To recap, fish can survive 68 degree water, but only if we leave them alone. Water temps over 70 can be lethal and over 80 terminal. The die-off we’re seeing in the Willamette is a sample of temps in the terminal range.
As I said earlier, conditions do change and as summer gives way to fall our days shorten up, while our nights grow longer. Longer nights allow for more overnight cooling providing much better fishing conditions in the early hours of day. For summer Steelhead that “happy place” is between 50 and 60 degrees. Many of the anglers I contacted about this article pull the plug on any interaction with Steelhead at 65 and even then take great care to land and release in a timely manner with no removal of the fish from the water at all.
Trout have a similar set of numbers dialed into their thermostat that make them happy and willing to participant in our angling efforts. 50-63 degrees seems to be the sweet spot as observed by my good friend and Trout guru, Brian Silvey. While temps below 40 and above 70 are not conducive to successful Trout fishing, fishing in those warmer temps put fish in danger of not surviving an encounter. If the water’s warm, do no harm.
Now, all of this doom and gloom does not mean you have to hang up your fishing kit and go swing golf sticks. Not at all. What it does mean is that we all need to be aware of the conditions and adapt. Here are 10 tips to get you through the summer heat.
1. Carry a thermometer and use it. Knowing the water temp will add to your success and save fish.
2. Fish early in the day when the water is cooler and take the afternoon off if temps break into the danger zone over 65 degrees.
3. Fish higher up in the watershed. Rivers and streams warm up as they flow to the sea. Well forested rivers stay cooler than waters flowing through an open landscape. Explore new water.
4.Tailwater fisheries provide cooler water conditions as you move closer to the dams that create them.
5. Try lake fishing. Many of our Cascade lakes stay much cooler in the summer months as they are spring fed.
6. Explore the coastal waters off beaches and jetties, or visit Puget Sound.
7. Utilize the USGS website to track flows and temps.
8. Maybe succumb to the carp and bass craze.
9. Have fun and learn something new this summer.
10. Share this information with others