Rising water temperatures and poor passage are
causing Oregon and Washington fishery managers to shut down fishing at the
mouth of the Deschutes River in Oregon and the mouth of the Yakima River in
Oregon closed to all fishing, including catch
and release, the mouth of the Deschutes Aug. 9 in order to protect summer
steelhead that may be taking sanctuary in the cooler water provided by the
tributary of the Columbia River, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
said in a news release.
In addition, the Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife closed to sockeye and summer salmon angling what is effectively
the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers from the Highway 395 Bridge
upstream to the Interstate 182 Bridge. The closure is Aug. 6 through Aug. 15.
WDFW said in a notice to anglers (https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=2179)
that elevated water temperatures in the Yakima River has resulted in a barrier
to fish passage. Sockeye returning to the Yakima River Basin are vulnerable to
over harvest while staging in the Columbia River at the Yakima River
Effective Aug.16 all areas of the Columbia
River between Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam will be closed to the harvest of
sockeye, WDFW said.
Some 155,347 sockeye have passed McNary Dam
(the next dam downstream of the Yakima River) as of Aug. 8, or 68 percent of
the 10-year average of 230,103. On this date last year, 63,878 had passed
McNary Dam. Of this year’s passage at McNary, 656 were endangered Snake River
sockeye that were counted at Ice Harbor Dam. That’s 69 percent of the 10 year
average on this date of 957 fish. Last year, the number of Snake River sockeye
on this date was 391. Just 268 sockeye passed Lower Granite Dam, the upper of
the four lower Snake River dams.
At its Aug. 3 meeting in Salem, the Oregon
Fish and Wildlife Commission had directed ODFW staff to amend fishing
regulations for the Columbia River near the Deschutes and in the lower
Deschutes from the mouth upstream to Moody Rapids. The direction included
closing this area to all fishing until river temperatures have stabilized below
According to ODFW, the staff will continue to
monitor river temperatures and run sizes throughout the fall to determine when
the area can be reopened. This is unlikely to occur prior to late-September,
the agency said.
Concerns about the vulnerability of fish to
fishing pressure in the mouths of some tributaries of the Columbia River were
sparked by the historically low returns of Snake River-bound summer steelhead
in 2017, ODFW said. At that time the states of Oregon and Washington adopted
unprecedented restrictions, including rolling closures of steelhead retention,
to several fisheries to reduce mortality on these fish.
In June 2018, ODFW staff outlined for the
Commission a plan to take a comprehensive look at potential thermal sanctuaries
throughout the Columbia River. That review process will include a series of
public meetings in the fall of 2018 followed by rulemaking in early 2019.
According to the Fish Passage Center, as of
Aug. 8 some 44,526 steelhead (34 percent of the 10-year average of 132,058 for
that date) had passed Bonneville Dam, including 19,481 wild fish (also 34
percent of the 10-year average of 57,969). Last year on this date, passage was
33,486 steelhead, including 15,683 wild.
The Conservation Angler, a wild fish
conservation organization approved of the closure, calling the closed area a
cold water refuge.
“While current regulations require many wild
fish to be released unharmed, the lethal and sub-lethal effects of encounters
in the fisheries (both indirect and direct) can and does have an impact on
their fitness, survival and productivity,” said David Moskowitz, executive
director of The Conservation Angler. “The very low wild summer steelhead
run-size and the extreme heat and its effect on water temperatures really make
this sanctuary area a critical conservation action for the entire Columbia River
above Bonneville Dam.”
The closed areas at the Deshutes River mouth
--All waters south of a straight line
projecting from the flashing red USCG light #2 upstream to the lower South
Channel Range B marker located approximately 3/4-mile upstream of the mouth of
--The lower Deschutes River from the mouth
upstream to markers placed on the downstream end of Moody Rapids.
--CBB, August 26, 2016, “Identifying,
Preserving Columbia/Snake Cold Water Refuges Important Salmon Recovery Tool,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437376.aspx