SALEM, Ore. — In April, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation with Oregon State University, will begin a six-month study of large redband trout in the Blitzen River in southeastern Oregon to better understand where in the river the fish spawn, if they use the entire watershed and how water temperatures affect their distribution.
The Blitzen River, which flows off Steens Mountain through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and into Malheur Lake, has a large population of redband trout, a unique form of rainbow trout, which migrate to different reaches of the river in the spring to spawn. Some of these fish may reach up to 20 inches in length and provide a popular sport fishery for trophy-size trout.
A graduate student from Oregon State University’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct the research. Fieldwork will begin in April and continue into September. The study involves capturing and tagging fish at three traps along the river. A number of fish will have radio tags surgically implanted so their movements can by followed using radio telemetry. In addition, there are a number of irrigation diversions on the river within the wildlife refuge that will be examined to determine if they are presenting obstacles to fish migration.
“When the study is complete, we hope to have recommendations for improving fish passage during periods when the fish are migrating and to understand how their migrations are affected by precipitation and snow pack runoff,” said Steve Jacobs, Leader for the Native Fish Investigations Project at the ODFW Corvallis Research Lab, who is helping to oversee the project. “Ultimately, findings of this study will be used to guide management activities that will enhance this unique and valuable trout population and improve angling opportunities.”
The cost of the project is $58,512. ODFW’s Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program contributed $9,700 towards the project.
About ODFW’s 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.
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