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Action Alert:

Oregon needs temperature-based fishing regulations

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Oregon needs temperature-based fishing regulations

Across Oregon, we are all feeling the effects of hot summer weather. We seek out cool air, take a dip in our local waters, and find refuge to avoid the summer heat.

For many rivers, this hot summer weather also means warm water temperatures, which can stress our native cold-water species like salmon, steelhead, and trout.

Of all the factors that influence the health of these fish, temperature is arguably the most important. Water temperature affects almost every phase of their life histories, including their metabolisms, upstream and downstream migration, spawning, rearing, food availability, swimming speed, direct and delayed mortality, susceptibility to disease, and can alter the competitive dominance of other predators.

Many of our favorite fishing locations across the state, such as the Deschutes and North Umpqua rivers, have already seen repeated days where water temperatures have exceeded 68F, a temperature that can be stressful for salmonids.

In the Southwest Zone, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife implemented an emergency measure that closed fishing to protect summer steelhead and fall Chinook in the Umpqua River and its mainstem tributaries. Last week, ODFW issued another emergency angling closure for the “Fly Water” stretch of the North Umpqua River, which closed angling from the hours of 2 PM to one hour before sunrise to protect wild summer steelhead that are experiencing the combination of low flows and high water temperatures. We applaud this effort from the department as an important conservation action to protect the state’s native fish.

We have also heard from many of you that you have instituted your own “hoot owl” fishing closures, with a commitment when catch and release angling to stop fishing in the afternoon hours when water temperatures rise to the mid to upper 60s. Thank you for taking this important conservation step.

But the truth is, warm water temperatures combined with exceptionally low flows have become an annual occurrence. According to the National Weather Service, parts of Oregon have experienced eight of the 10 hottest Julys on record since 2000, and many of the rivers we fish rely on flows from winter snowpacks, which have also diminished in recent years.

As we continue to experience the year-after-year occurance of warm water temperatures and abnormally low snowpacks, there is a need for the department to respond with a standard policy.

We’ve brought this issue up before. Last September Native Fish Society asked the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to implement regulations that protect wild steelhead from angling while they’re holding in a series of known refuges along Oregon’s 400 mile border with the Columbia River. However, these regulations have not been fully implemented.

These temperature-based regulation recommendations, as well as other regulations that require anglers to stop fishing once temperatures hit the 68F threshold, are science-based, enforceable, and can still allow fishing opportunity while protecting the stocks that are the foundation of Oregon’s fisheries. As this year heats up again, the department is having to respond to warm water temperatures with “emergency” regulations applied river by river, which are piecemeal and burdensome.

The goal is not to limit anglers’ time on the water. Rather, the goal is to develop standard policy that is responsive to the state’s increasing need for temperature-based regulations prior to the summer season when hot weather and low flows spell real trouble for native fish.

Speak on behalf of our native fish today and sign the petition requesting that ODFW develop angling regulation policy that sets standards for river-specific, temperature-based fishing closures when temperature thresholds are exceeded.

And be sure to walk your talk. Carry a thermometer with you and stop fishing when temperatures reach the mid-60s. And share your conservation ethics along with this action alert with others who care about our native fish. Our fish friends will thank you.

Recipients:
Ed Bowles, Fish Division Administrator, ODFW
Curt Melcher, Director, ODFW
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission

Photo:
Russ Ricketts // @river_snorkeling

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Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife - Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission