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Camp Water

Camp water is close to home. Here you will find information on stuff happening here in the shop and on our local waters. You'll also find our weekly newsletter feature, Trailer Trash Thursday, a fun collection of fly fishing videos, perfect for a midweek distraction. If you don't get the newsletter, be sure to sign up today!

Pelton Dam Brawl

Joel La Follette - Thursday, September 14, 2017
Heppner Gazette Times ~ February 12th, 1953

Pelton Dam Brawl
A public hearing on the Pelton Dam controversy Friday brought crowds of irate witnesses and rooters that rivaled the oleo hearing throngs of the legislative session. The large hearing room and wide halls leading to it became sounding boards for sub human behavior. Police were called to keep order.

Two bus loads of central Oregonians who arrived an hour before the time scheduled for the meeting were not all able to find seats. They came to rah for the Portland General Electric Company's proposal to build a dam on the Deschutes River.

Proponents testified that dam would provide 100,000 kW of power. Opponents testified it would only be 42,000 kW and at best would be only a drop in the river to alleviate the power shortage. A proponents said the dam would build up a sportsman's paradise. Others said the dam would ruin fishing for sportsman and commercial fishermen would suffer the loss of spawning beds above the dam that would ruin the planned build up of 3,000,000 pounds of salmon a year.

What is Black Spot?

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, May 03, 2017

This photo of a Deschutes Bull Trout infected with Black Spot was taken by Nick Wheeler on May 1st on the Warm Springs to Trout Creek section of the Deschutes. 

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a parasite that infects salmonids was becoming more prevalent in the Deschutes with many anglers reporting catches infected with the telltale “black spots.” To answer some the questions floating around I turned to biologist Greg McMillan and asked “Just what is Black Spot and why are we seeing an increase in cases in the Deschutes?”

Greg responded, "Black spot disease is caused by a flatworm (trematode) parasite known in the scientific community as Uvulifer ambloplitis, and also known as “neascus”.  This parasite has a complicated life cycle that starts with eggs in water, which hatch and become juveniles known as miracidia, which in turn infect aquatic snails.  In snails this form of the parasite matures into the next life form, known as cercariae.  Cercariae are shed by the snails and become free swimmers, which attach to fish.  Once the cercariae have attached to the flesh of fish, the fish develops an immune response that causes the dark spot.

Kingfishers are the next host, which become infected when they ingest infected fish.  The cercariae develop into adult flatworms.  The parasite then produces eggs, which are shed in feces by kingfishers, and deposited in water where the life cycle is reinitiated.

These flatworms do not appear to be fatal to fish, or other hosts.  There are scattered reports of fish stressed from other sources dying while infected.  No human infections have been reported, but there is no real surveillance mechanism to detect human infections.  Although probably safe for human consumption after thorough cooking, there is no study data to confirm that.

None of us who have fished the lower Deschutes River for decades can say that we’ve seen many, if any fish with this condition until a year ago.  There are reports indicating there have been infected fish in the lower Deschutes River and tributaries in the past, but they aren’t common.  So what has changed?  Is this random?  Or linked to the ongoing ecological changes we are all seeing in the lower river?

This might be related to an increase in the snail population in the lower Deschutes River. Portland General Electric’s Year 1 Data Summary Report from their Lower Deschutes River Macroinvertebrate and Periphyton Report Study published in 2014, indicates that there has been a significant increase in snail populations in the lower Deschutes River.  This increase in population in the intermediate host (snails) might be related to the increase in black spot disease noted in fish.  The snail population increase is likely linked to the increase in algae in the lower river.

Is this a catastrophic occurrence?  Probably not, but it could be another indication of ecological change in the lower Deschutes River."

As Greg said, Black Spot is probably not catastrophic, but it is of concern. Finding out more information on the disease occurrence in Oregon is hard as it seems to not be of concern to ODFW at this time. Perhaps if more cases are reported by anglers, ODFW will finally take notice and look into the cause of this increase in cases. 



I would suggest that anglers fishing the Deschutes carefully photograph and report cases of Black Spot to ODFW. Take note of where the catch was made and how many cases were observed. Please make an effort to leave fish in the water when handling and photographing them. If you send a photo of infected fish to me I'll add it to this blog post. Again, please handle all wild fish with respect and care.

Trailer Trash Thursday Decline of the Deschutes Edition

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Deschutes River Alliance has released this short film documenting the decline of the Deschutes River. Please share this video with friends, family and all those who love this very special river. 

The Deschutes River is facing a battle for it's life. Changes to the drawdown at PGE's Pelton Dam are seriously effecting the lower 100 miles of river. These changes are doing nothing to improve water quality in the reservoir itself, yet are the main reason for the new mixing tower and operation policy. While the reintroduction of anadromous species above the dam is a wonderful idea, it was just a carrot dangled to the tribes and other user groups to sign off on this plan. What is the cost? Will we lose Oregon's premiere Trout stream in the process? Until we address the issue of the water quality in the Crooked and Deschutes basins we will never improve the water quality in the reservoir. Flushing this water into the lower river is not the solution. Learn more at the Deschutes River Alliance.



The Rapid Decline of the Lower Deschutes River from Deschutes River Alliance on Vimeo.

Green Drakes make a showing/Salmonflies slowly depart

Joel La Follette - Thursday, May 19, 2016
The Deschutes is the focus again this week as the Salmonfly hatch garners most of you Trouters attention. The big bugs are slowly fading away below Mack’s Canyon, but fish are still grabbing plump offerings bumped off the grass and brush. Same holds true in the Maupin area, with spotty clumps of Golden Stones still hanging on. Those of you venturing to these areas may wish to arm yourself with a collection of other spring patterns just to have your bases covered.

On Tuesday, I was the guest of Marty Sheppard who chauffeur Shane Blitch and  myself downriver below Mack’s Canyon to do a little exploring. There were hanger-ons in the bushes and a few dropping eggs, but the 2016 Salmonfly hatch was pretty much over. Fish still rose to Goldens, but March Browns, PMDs, Caddis and Green Drakes were more prevalent. Flocks of Seagulls working like Swallows over riffle water are a sign that something big is hatching. After observing several mid-air grabs I was able to spot a few Green Drakes taking to wing even on a bright sunny day. I even convinced a few fish that those might be a good idea.


Above Maupin fishing has been very good as the big bugs continue to be the main course in dining rooms next to the bank. Josh and his buddy Eric did the Trout Creek to Maupin run with great success this past weekend. They reported that the set up to run with is a Hopper/ Hopper/Hopper rig, which for the less adventurous of us is a Salmonfly dry, with a Yellow Sally Dropper, with an Elk Hair Dropper. Not the easiest collection of fluff to toss into the brush, but it does offer fish dining options. Just take a lot of flies with you.

Continuing up the creek we find the hatch is spotty in places and off the hook in others. No doubt this is due to the changes we’re experiencing in the post Pelton Dam mixing tower era. Consistency is not a word that describes any of our insect hatches and that may be the new normal until the issues facing the Deschutes are  rectified. Look for Salmonflies and Goldenstones to continue to hang around for a few more weeks in places up and down the river before fading into memory. It's time to start thinking about that other fly box filled with the bugs of summer and prepare for a variety of hatches over the coming months.

Have fun and be careful! 

DRA Notifies PGE of intent to sue

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Press Release from DRA

On May 13, 2016, the Deschutes River Alliance (DRA) sent a sixty-day notice of intent to sue to Portland General Electric (PGE).

The primary allegation in the proposed suit is that PGE has knowingly violated the water quality requirements in the Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification for the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Complex. We have documented over 1,200 violations of the water quality requirements embodied in the Section 401 Certification.

We have met with PGE 25 times since March of 2013. Not once has PGE been transparent about these violations. We discovered the violations after extensive and exhaustive research and data collection.

The violations are reflective of broader water quality problems created by operation of the Selective Water Withdrawal (SWW) Tower at Round Butte Dam. These problems have caused, and continue to cause, ecological harm to the lower river, negatively impacting aquatic insects, algae and other river conditions. In addition, there have been economic impacts to the communities dependent upon the lower Deschutes River.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has not demonstrated any willingness to enforce these violations. Instead, ODEQ has worked privately with PGE on a yearly basis to weaken the §401 Certification’s requirements. These yearly “interim agreements” were made in violation of Oregon Administrative Rule procedural requirements, altering the water quality requirements as they were agreed to in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for the Pelton-Round Butte dam complex.

The SWW Tower was constructed to create surface currents in Lake Billy Chinook to guide juvenile anadromous fish to a collection facility where they are captured and trucked around the dam complex. We have been, and remain supportive of the anadromous fish reintroduction effort. However we believe that given the lack of success of juvenile fish migration through Lake Billy Chinook, and the serious negative impacts to the ecology of the lower Deschutes River, that it’s time to reassess surface water withdrawal in Lake Billy Chinook as the principle method to facilitate fish reintroduction.

If you need further information, please contact Jonah Sandford at Jonah@deschutesriveralliance.org or Greg McMillan at greg@deschutesriveralliance.org . You can also learn more about the issues facing the Deschutes by visiting the Deschutes River Alliance website.

PGE releases their final report on the Deschutes

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The final report for the Portland General Electric (PGE) Lower Deschutes River Macroinvertebrate and Periphyton Study was presented on April 6th and 8th at meetings hosted by PGE. R2 Resource Consultants of Redmond, Washington conducted the study, which was completed under contract to, and funded by, PGE. You can download a copy here.  Please note that this copy will be downloaded to your computer and is not posted for viewing online by PGE.

This is a two-year study conducted over two months (April and October) each year starting in October 2013. The study was a required condition of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing of the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Complex. The study described finding, “post-Selective Water Withdrawal conditions similar to pre-Selective Water Withdrawal, or improved.”

While landowners and recreational users of the river may have a different view of the condition of the river, it will take some time to digest PGE's study results. The Deschutes River Alliance is currently reviewing PGE's findings and comparing them to the extensive data that the DRA has compiled. There seems to be differences between studies and interpretation of results. Look for more information about these findings from the DRA in the future.

This Selective Water Withdrawal is PGE's only plan for the operation of the Dam complex on the lower Deschutes at this time. Those of us who know the river have seen the changes this SWW has brought about and they are not good for the longterm health of the river. Anglers, boaters, hikers, birders, landowners and other user groups need to be aware of this issue and get involved with this effort to save the Deschutes. The Deschutes River Alliance needs our help to make sure the Deschutes is a strong and healthy river for generations to come. Please donate your time and money to help save this very important part of Oregon.

Learn more about water quality research on the lower Deschutes River on the  Deschutes River Alliance's website.

ODFW Press Release:Lower Deschutes River re-opens to afternoon fishing

Joel La Follette - Thursday, August 06, 2015
Aug. 3, 2015

THE DALLES, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted fishing restrictions the lower Deschutes River. Anglers can now fish after 2 p.m. from Macks Canyon to the mouth of the river. The change is effective immediately.

Water temperatures in the lower Deschutes are back to near normal for August, prompting fishery managers to re-open the river to regular fishing hours. The entire lower Deschutes River from the Pelton Dam to the mouth is now open for fishing from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.

“We typically see water temperatures in the lower Deschutes begin to cool in August,” said Rod French, ODFW fish biologist. “Despite some very warm temperatures in late June and early July, the river is starting to look more normal as we head into August.”

A number of factors contribute to the August cool down, French said, including:

the increasing influence of cold water springs as river levels drop, and
longer nights and cooler nighttime temperatures and the changing angle of the sun increasing shade cast by the steep canyon walls.
Fishery managers will continue to monitor water temperatures in the lower Deschutes and will be prepared to announce subsequent closures, if necessary.

In the meantime, anglers are encouraged to follow the usual precautions when catch-and-release fishing in warm weather:

Fish early in the day when water temperatures are cooler.
Check water temperatures frequently and stop fishing when they reach 70 degrees.
Use barbless hooks so you can release fish quickly.
Keep the fish in the water as you unhook them, and cradle the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.
The lower Deschutes was included in the July 16 closure of most rivers and streams in the state to fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead after 2 p.m. The closure is to help protect native fish already stressed by low water levels and high water temperatures associated with this year’s drought.

ODFW has also re-opened the upper reaches of two northeast Oregon streams to regular fishing hours: the Imnaha River above Freezeout Creek and the Wenaha River above Crooked Creek.

Both are cold water systems somewhat immune to excessive water temperatures, and were inadvertently included in the statewide restrictions.

These three changes from the early closure are consistent with ODFW’s exemption process, where cool, high elevation streams, spring-fed systems, tail-race fisheries and estuaries are generally exempt from early closures. The Department will continue to monitor conditions across the state and evaluate proposed changes on a case-by-case basis, but anglers can anticipate that the most closures are likely to remain in effect until temperatures cool significantly, generally associated with shorter days, cooler nights and fall rains.

When is hot, too hot?

Joel La Follette - Thursday, July 09, 2015
The thermometer is your friend. No, not that vintage Hire’s Rootbeer model you have nailed to the garage that has been stuck in the 90s for a few weeks. I’m talking about that handy little stream thermometer that you carry with you, but never use. You really should get to know it better. It could be a life saver, for fish anyway.

With hot being the word of the month I thought perhaps I should share a little insight from my group of friends and water whisperers on the subject of water temps and fish. Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Nova Scotia you probably realize we have a serious low water problem with our rivers and streams as Santa forgot to deliver our snow pack. Temperatures are climbing as sunbaked watersheds trickle to the sea. Migratory runs are slowed by thermo blocks and local salmonids are just plain grumpy. This issue has reached a critical level across the state and I would be remiss if I didn’t do my part to educate and inform.

In putting together this simple guide to safe warm water fishing practices my goal is to inform you as to how and where you can find waters that still provide water cool enough for angling, without harming the population of finned residents. Note that conditions do change and it is possible to see a very rapid cooling or warming of a particular stream dependent on the factors that influence that watershed.

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

Deschutes River Alliance Press Release

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Press Release
For Immediate Release: July 6, 2015
Fish Die of Heat Exposure in Lower Deschutes River
Numerous sockeye salmon were discovered this past weekend in shallow water along the banks of the lower Deschutes River near Rattlesnake Rapid. The fish, discovered by retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist Steve Pribyl, were suffering from obvious signs of heat stress.
According to Pribyl, who is also a board member of the Deschutes River Alliance,  the fish were washing ashore on the west bank of the river where he was hiking, so the fish he saw only represented a small portion of a much larger fatal event. In a short distance of the west bank, thirteen fish were seen to be either stressed to near death, or already dead.

Lower than normal flows and higher than normal daytime temperatures have contributed to high water temperatures (as high as 74+ degrees) in the lower
river. Portland General Electric and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, owners of the Pelton-Round Butte Dam Complex, are continuing current practices at the dams by drawing primarily warm surface water from Lake Billy Chinook, instead of cooler bottom water. The control over temperatures is achieved by using the Selective Water Withdrawal Tower at Round Butte Dam.

As summer has only now just begun, Deschutes River Alliance members and other experienced users of the river believe that if current dam water release practices continue, fish kills will increase, raising further difficulty for already challenged runs of our salmon and steelhead.

For further information:
Visit http://www.deschutesriveralliance.org
https://deschutesriveralliance.wordpress.com
Or call:
Greg McMillan
President
Director, Science and Conservation Deschutes River Alliance 541-410-9626
Steve Pribyl Director
Deschutes River Alliance 541-980-9710

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