The same conditions that led to a banner run of hatchery coho salmon last year appear to have had a similar effect beneficial to winter steelhead. Several Northwest Region fish hatcheries operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are reporting strong returns of winter steelhead. The good early winter steelhead returns come on the heels of a strong coho run last fall. Biologists believe that good flows for outbound smolts in 2008, followed by favorable ocean conditions contributed to better than average survival rates for both runs of fish.
“We have a pile of steelhead showing up in some of these rivers,” said Robert Bradley, assistant fish biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District.
On the coast, early hatchery winter steelhead have provided good fishing opportunities in several streams. When angling conditions have been favorable, catches of early returning hatchery winter steelhead have generally been good. Large numbers of fish are still available in the river, as evidenced by increasing numbers of fish being collected at hatchery traps. The North Fork Nehalem in particular has seen periods of very good fishing since mid-December. Well over 1,000 returning adult hatchery winter steelhead have been trapped at Nehalem Hatchery so far this season.
The Necanicum River, Big Creek, Gnat Creek, Klaskanine River and Three Rivers (in the Nestucca River basin) are other streams offering good early season hatchery winter steelhead opportunities. Due to their smaller size, these streams tend to be in fishable condition more often, as they clear more quickly than larger streams.
“There will be lots of bright, chrome fish in these streams for the next two or three weeks,” said Bradley. “In another month, most of the early returning hatchery winter steelhead will be gone, so we really encourage people to get out and take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.”
Farther inland, the Sandy and Clackamas rivers and Eagle Creek are seeing large returns, and ODFW’s fish counting station at Willamette Falls is seeing some of its largest steelhead crossings in recent years, according to Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed.
The six coastal streams are relatively small, and most of the fishing in their waters is done from bank. All six streams are reasonably accessible by vehicle or by foot, although anglers need to be mindful of private property. Persons who possess disabled angler permits may fish from an ADA accessible fishing platform located immediately below the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. The lower Sandy and Clackamas are popular for both boat and bank fishing. Eagle Creek is a bank fishing-only stream.
The bag limit is two adipose fin-clipped steelhead a day.
Recorded information about current river conditions can be accessed by calling the Nehalem hatchery at 503-368-5670 or the Big Creek hatchery at 503-458-6529. Weekly reports are also available on ODFW’s Web site at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/RR/northwest.
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