Alsea, OR– As part of a study of winter steelhead on the Alsea and North Fork Nehalem rivers, ODFW has adopted a temporary rule that allows anglers who catch a radio-tagged hatchery winter steelhead to harvest the fish.
Permanent fishing regulations prohibit the harvest of radio-tagged fish. Instead, anglers are required to release the fish unharmed so scientists can continue to collect data.
However, according to Ryan Couture, ODFW manager at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, the temporary rule change is designed to encourage anglers to turn in radio tags from any fish they catch. While the temporary rule is aimed at the Alsea and the North Fork Nehalem rivers where tagging will occur, it also will apply to other streams in the NW Zone to allow anglers to harvest and recovery tags from fish that may relocate into nearby basins.
“A key piece of information we hope to collect is where the fish was caught,” he said. “Once we have that information, the tag is no longer useful in that fish. We can, however, reuse that radio tag in the next iteration of the study.”
The radio-tagged fish are easily identified by a 6-inch long antenna coming out of the mouth. Anglers who catch a radio-tagged fish should record the date and location of the catch and call one of the following ODFW offices to record that data and arrange to return the tag:
- Oregon Hatchery Research Center (541) 487-5510
- Alsea Hatchery (541) 487-7240
- Nehalem Hatchery (503) 368-5670
- ODFW Newport Office (541) 265-8306
- ODFW Tillamook Office (503) 842-2741
The radio tags are being used to trace the movement and timing of adult winter steelhead returning to the Alsea and North Fork Nehalem. Beginning early this winter, and continuing through spring 2012, the location and behavior of the radio-tagged fish will be tracked using several fixed and handheld receivers along the river.
The data collected will help determine if a new strategy for releasing hatchery steelhead smolts is working to help make returning adult fish more available to anglers.
“Hatchery steelhead on the Alsea River have a reputation for moving very quickly up the river directly to the hatchery,” Couture said. “We want to see if releasing the smolts lower in the river will help slow them down and give anglers a better chance to catch them.”
ODFW also is looking for volunteers to help catch the fish to be tagged on the Alsea. To volunteer, contact Ryan Couture at (541) 487-5510.
In order to encourage anglers to return tags to ODFW, two sport groups are sponsoring drawings that will award prizes to anglers returning tags. The Alsea Sportsman’s Association will award two $50 gift certificates to a local sporting goods stores to two anglers whose names are drawn from Alsea River tag returns. Angler’s returning radio tags from the North Fork Nehalem will be eligible to win one of the popular fish prints from the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.
“The idea is not to target tagged fished, but to help ODFW recover some expensive radio tags that could be reused,” said Ty Wyatt of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.