September 6, 2009 in Outdoors

Steelhead surging upstream

From staff and wire reports
 

Record steelhead counts over Bonneville Dam in mid-August could bode well for Deschutes River anglers over the next few weeks, Oregon biologists say.

To reach the Deschutes and other upstream fisheries such as the Snake River, the steelhead had to climb over The Dalles Dam. On Aug. 17, only 14,000 stealhead had moved over the second dam upstream from Bonneville. By Friday, the number had shot up to nearly 250,000 and the fish were piling over The Dalles at the rate of 9,000 a day.

“A good run over The Dalles generally indicates we’re going to have a very good year,” said Rod French, Oregon Fish and Wildlife biologist in The Dalles.

“We’re walking on their backs,” he quipped.

Indeed, fishing was good even before the big mid-August counts over Bonneville, all the way from the mouth to Sherars Falls (near Maupin), he said.

Recent hot weather turned angler success off and on, he said.

Oregon and Washington biologists had predicted an overall Columbia River steelhead run of about 350,000 this year. However, as of Friday, more than 500,000 had climbed over Bonneville Dam, although the rate had decreased from up to 8,000 a day last week to around 4,100.

Upstream in the Snake River near Lewiston, fishing boats were reporting catches of more than a dozen fish a day last weekend.

More than 26,000 steelhead had moved over Lower Granite Dam as of Friday.

French said fish that swam to the ocean in 2008 — including runs of steelhead, jack chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, which have all returned to the Columbia in big numbers — had incredible survival rates.

The peak of the steelhead run near the mouth of the Deschutes probably has already occurred, according to French. The peak of the run near Sherars Falls (43 miles upstream of the mouth) typically arrives in the second week of September.

French said this year’s steelhead run in the Deschutes will be the biggest since at least 2001.

The lower Deschutes, similar to Idaho’s Clearwater, is known for producing big steelhead.


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