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ODFW Encourages Anglers to Keep Hatchery Steelhead Caught in Northeast Oregon Rivers

February 12, 2010


LA GRANDE – Steelhead anglers are experiencing a record return of adult steelhead this season and angling conditions have been very good in recent weeks, a big improvement over the low flow and ice conditions earlier in the season.  Adults returning this year to hatchery facilities in the Imnaha and Wallowa River basins experienced higher than normal survival during smolt migration and ocean rearing phases of their life cycle.  Numbers of steelhead passing Snake River dams have been about double the ten-year average run size.  Angler surveys have shown average catch rates of three to five hours per steelhead landed in the Grande Ronde, Wallowa, and Imnaha Rivers.  These surveys also reveal that anglers are releasing many of the hatchery steelhead they land.

ODFW is encouraging anglers to keep adipose fin-clipped hatchery steelhead caught in northeast Oregon rivers.  ODFW increased the bag limit from three to five steelhead per day earlier this season in hopes that more hatchery steelhead would be taken home by anglers.

Steelhead hatchery programs in northeast Oregon are federally funded by the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan (LSRCP).  One of the primary objectives of the LSRCP program has been to enhance fisheries that were affected by the construction of lower Snake River Dams.  Observations of tagged fish passing Snake River dams suggest thousands of fish will return this year while only a few hundred are needed for hatchery egg take.

Hatchery personnel utilize some of the surplus adults by stocking them in local ponds, recycling trapped adults through popular fishing areas, and providing fish to local food banks.  However, they will still likely have more than these outlets can use.  Large numbers of hatchery returns also increase the chance that some will stray into wild steelhead spawning areas which can have detrimental impacts to the wild populations.  Anglers can help minimize these potential problems by keeping hatchery fish they catch and taking advantage of the abundant returns and liberal bag limits this season.

Steelhead caught in late winter and spring have variable flesh quality but most will provide a good meal for anglers and their families.  External appearance is not always a good indicator of the quality of the fish.  Some dark colored fish will have firm flesh that is suitable for barbecuing, baking, or broiling.  Softer flesh fish are still good for smoking or adding to soup or pasta dishes.  Recipes for preparing steelhead are available in many cookbooks and on the internet.




Mary Hoverson (541) 962-1826
Fax: (541) 963-6670

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