The Deschutes River boasts one of the healthiest runs of wild fall Chinook salmon remaining in the Columbia River basin. No hatchery program exists for fall Chinook on the Deschutes. Deschutes fall Chinook begin entering the river in August and peak in late September and early October. Spawning typically begins in October and continues until late December. Fall Chinook are considered main stem spawners, which means they prefer to spawn in or near the main river channel. Fall Chinook are often observed spawning from two feet to several feet deep in the Deschutes from river mile 0 to 100. Deschutes River fall Chinook juveniles primarily enter the ocean at less than one year old and typically are two to six years old when they return to spawn as adults.
We have monitored adult fall Chinook populations in the Deschutes by conducting a Peterson mark recapture estimate since 1977. The adult salmon and steelhead trap at Sherars Falls is the main component to our monitoring in the Deschutes. We typically tag several hundred jack and adult fish from late June to the end of October with an orange Floy (dart) tag. Tagged and non tagged fish are subsequently examined at the Pelton Round Butte Trap at the base of Round Butte Dam and conducting post spawn carcass surveys to estimate annual returns. Due to the importance of our surveyors recovering tagged and untagged carcasses, we ask that you leave a tag intact if you observe one in a Deschutes River fall Chinook.