Fisheries managers have announced that the popular spring chinook fishery on the Deschutes River will not open in 2013.
According to Rod French, district biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, managers are predicting fewer than 650 wild spring chinook will return to the Warm Springs River to spawn.
Under the current Lower Deschutes River management plan, the predicted run must be at least 1,000 wild fish before ODFW can open a sport fishery on hatchery fish.
“We have seen a significant decline in the return of wild fish over the last several years,” French said. “When the wild populations are this low, we can’t afford any incidental harvest from anglers targeting hatchery fish.”
The return of hatchery fish to the two Deschutes River hatcheries is also expected to be low, and any harvest may jeopardize future hatchery production and fishing opportunities in the river.
The exact cause of the decline is unknown, but managers hope that allowing additional fish to return to spawning grounds will boost wild production.
The Deschutes River is closed to all chinook fishing under permanent rule. However, when returns exceed management goals, a sport season can be opened under emergency rule. Past spring chinook seasons have typically opened in April.
The fishery below Sherars Falls is extremely popular because high catch rates offer a good opportunity to catch a Columbia River spring chinook from the bank.
Unlike the wild spring chinook population, the wild fall chinook population in the Deschutes River is one of the healthiest stocks in the Columbia Basin, and the anticipated return should be well above management goals.
This will allow fishery managers to propose a sport fishing season for fall chinook beginning in August, French said.