TILLAMOOK, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is completing a winter steelhead creel survey on the Nestucca River in northwestern Oregon to compare the performance of two hatchery broodstocks—wild Nestucca winter steelhead broodstock and steelhead derived from Alsea River broodstock.
In the winter of 2001-02, ODFW instituted a hatchery program that used wild Nestucca River winter steelhead as broodstock in an effort to develop an in-basin hatchery stock that could provide angling benefits from fish more locally adapted to the river. The first adult fish from the wild broodstock program began returning to the Nestucca River during the winter of 2004-05. Historically, the winter steelhead hatchery program used steelhead derived from Alsea River broodstock.
To determine the level of contribution that each stock is making to the fishery, ODFW has been contacting anglers during the winter steelhead season to count how many fish have been harvested. Adult returns are also monitored by counting fish captured at two trap sites in the river basin. In previous years, ODFW crews captured adult fish in spawning areas to document the presence of hatchery fish spawning in the wild.
Although there is still another year to go, the data collected so far shows a clear trend in favor of the fish with wild broodstock ancestry. “We can say that the wild broodstock component contributes as much as two to three times more fish to the harvest than the Alsea stock,” said Robert Bradley, ODFW Assistant District Fish Biologist.
One reason for this is that the Nestucca River stock arrive from January into April—later than the Alsea stock which move into the river in December and January—when river conditions are more conducive to successful angling as water levels are lower and clearer. They also remain in the river longer before spawning so are available to catch for a greater period of time.
“We catch substantially more Alsea fish at the traps than we do wild broodstock fish,” said Bradley. “That’s due, in part, to the fact that the wild broodstock component is being harvested more frequently by anglers.”
The five-year project, partially funded by a $40,000 grant from the ODFW’s Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, is in its final phase and is scheduled to end in May 2009.
About the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program
Created by the Oregon Legislature in 1989, the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program is funded by a surcharge on sport and commercial fishing licenses and commercial poundage fees. The program’s seven-member citizen board reviews fish restoration and enhancement project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. For more information on the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, visit www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/RE or contact program coordinator Laura Tesler at (503) 947-6259.