home Oregon, Top Stories Warm water killing fish across Oregon

Warm water killing fish across Oregon

By Bill Monroe | For The Oregonian/OregonLive  6/27/2015

In 1990, the late Charlie White brought his then-innovative underwater cameras to Oregon, filming fish in numerous locations as we dangled baits and lures for them to bite.

While filming smallmouth bass with the late Denny Hannah on the Umpqua River during warm, summer water temperatures, we were startled by a passing summer steelhead.

White immediately followed it with the camera toward the nearby shoreline, where the lens found dozens of summer steelhead clustered in the cold current of a small tributary entering the river from a deep, shaded ravine. The cool sanctuary helped them survive.

I recalled the day this past week as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officially shuttered down those sanctuaries along the Umpqua River and laid out suggestions for how to fish effectively during the heat wave.

But while all four of the department’s fishing hints fit the warm weather, only one helps to actually catch hatchery salmon and steelhead. The other three are aimed at salvaging wild fish to be released.

“Fish during the cooler early mornings or evenings,” is the most helpful for anglers. Mornings are by far the best.

The others include landing fish quickly to reduce stress; keeping wild fish in at least six inches of water while releasing them, and reviving tips – nose into the current, move the fish back and forth to oxygenate the gills.

I wonder…Why not a fifth?

Why don’t we just lay off fishing for them in warm water? Voluntarily…give them a break…try walleye or bass for a change…head for high country trout…take an ocean charter…fish from the jetty.

Water temperatures at Bonneville Dam were pushing 70 degrees late in the week and a biologist told me the average Willamette temperature in June is running 72.8. That’s on track with the highest seen recently (70.6 in July 2012; 73.5 in August 2012; 71.8 in July 2011 and 72.1 in August 2011.

“Scary thing is,” he said, “it is so hot so early.”

Sturgeon may be taking a hit, too, from the stress of catch-and-release. Several were among the carcasses counted the past couple weeks on the Willamette below Oregon City and that’s not even in a catch-and-release area.

Yes, there’s some terrific catch-and-release fishing right now for sturgeon, but at what price?

Try trout! If you find it cooler in the mountains or on the coast, so will the trout and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is making it easier and easier for you to find each other.

Biologists have adjusted stocking schedules to accommodate warmer water and each week’s recreation report from the department notes changes from its online stocking schedules.

Even better, the department’s Web site now features a handy 14-episode “How to fish for trout in Oregon.” The segments – each from a minute to five or six minutes long – cover the gamut of trout fishing basics for the state’s most sought-after gamefish. Even someone who’s never picked up a fishing pole will find his or her way.

From the homepage, simply click on “Schools. Out. For. Summer.”

Boats for vets? Take a Veteran Fishing sponsors need more boats to accommodate their premier event July 18 on Odell Lake, east of Eugene.

(And it will be plenty cool on the crest of the Cascade Mountains!)

More veterans are welcome to call as well, but boats are needed to take registered veterans on the water for a day of fishing for kokanee, lake trout and the occasional nice rainbow. All tackle is provided and the event is coordinated from Shelter Cove Resort.

Interested boat owners should contact Boyd Blanchard, 503-949-8840, or call the resort at 541-433-2548.

Short casts: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s proposed fee increases, amended and softened from the original, have been approved by the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee and are working their way through the houses on their way to the governor’s desk…Razor clam diggers can put away their shovels, perhaps for the year. The department said there’s no chance of reopening beaches for razor clam digging before the annual closure July 15-Sept. 30 and possibly not even this fall.

— Bill Monroe