With April and May being the driest since the late 1800’s and 72% of Oregon state facing drought conditions, streams don’t have enough water to keep the fish populations healthy. Streams around Oregon are already at 25% of what is typical for June
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking at taking emergency actions to protect the fish native to state streams.
ODFW Deputy Administrator for Inland Fisheries Shaun Clements said, “Please try to be flexible with your fishing plans this summer as we get through this drought. Our weekly Recreation Report is the best source of information on conditions and any emergency regulation changes due to drought.”
Always check for the latest changes at the ODFW website before going fishing as regulation changes on certain water bodies might change your plans. Some of the emergency actions that could occur are:
Trout stocking changes: Stocking schedules may change on short notice depending on water conditions.
Early release of fish: Low flows and high temperatures at fish hatcheries may force early release of salmon, steelhead and trout being raised.
Emergency closures/regulation changes: Certain areas may be closed to fishing to reduce stress on populations already struggling due to drought. Bag limits could be reduced or seasons shortened. “Hoot owl” regulations may close fishing earlier than expected in the day.
Bag limits may be removed: In areas without sensitive fish populations, bag limits may be removed to allow surviving fish to be harvested rather than left to die in low water.
Fish relocation: In rare cases, ODFW may salvage fish and take them to another body of water.
How to Fish in the Heat
Anglers can do their part to reduce the stress fish are under by fishing early in the day when water temperatures are cooler. Trout often go to deep waters in high elevations or shaded spots in streams.
Barbless hooks can more quickly land fish as well as more easily release a fish. This will both aid the fish’s chance for survival if released. Another way to ensure survival is to unhook your catch in the water while cradling the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.
Use your best judgment. If the water is hot and low, go somewhere else to fish.
ODFW is working to map out coldwater refuges. They are also working to support flow restoration projects and improve fish habitat where possible. For more information, see the agency’s climate change policy.
“There are things we can do to help ensure our iconic species can weather these droughts,” Clements said. “By protecting and restoring the most important habitats to provide cool, clean water, we give them a fighting chance.”