Effective this past Saturday, Oregon wildlife officials have enacted a number of new fishing restrictions in light of ongoing drought conditions. The move is nearly unprecedented, but officials hope it will reduce pressure on fish already stressed by high water temperature and low stream flows.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), fishing hours have been curtailed on most of the state’s rivers for salmon, trout, steelhead, and sturgeon. In some streams, these species will off-limits indefinitely.
Only a handful of streams will remain open for angling under normal hours. You can find them listed here.
“We’ve never done anything this broad sweeping. This is pretty unprecedented that we’re looking at this,” Mike Gauvin, the DFW’s recreation fisheries manager, told The Bulletin.
While the moves may be unprecedented in Oregon, they’re already a fact of life for anglers in California where drought has ravaged popular fishing holes. Extraordinary measures are being taken to protect the fish in that state, such as installing state-of-the-art water chillers in hatcheries, trucking salmon downstream, and what can sometimes seem to be endless restrictions on fishing.
Extreme weather events are especially stressful to trout and salmon, the latter of which is prone to wild population swings. Elevated temperatures have already led to reports of fish die-offs in Oregon.
“Earlier this month, we indicated that if these drought conditions continued, we may have to close or restrict some fisheries,” Gauvin said in a press release. “These are difficult, but necessary actions to protect native fish already suffering from extreme drought conditions.”
However, Gauvin added that the fishing did not have to stop. There are still plenty of fishing opportunities for anglers to pursue restricted species in the cooler morning hours before 2 pm, and there are warmwater fish like smallmouth bass and crappie. Anglers are encouraged to reduce stress on fish by going out earlier, start fishing near higher elevation lakes and streams near headwaters where temperatures are lower, and to use barbless hooks.
Drought conditions may also affect hunting and other outdoor activities as well. In addition to the increased chance of wildfires, officials say that hunting opportunities and game animals may also be affected. Hunters and campers are encouraged to camp a respectable distance away from water sources so wildlife can reach them. Bird hunters in particular are advised to set up their blinds away from water sources in consideration of other hunters and wildlife.
Image courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife