According to Rod French, district fish biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, managers are predicting a very poor return of both hatchery and wild fish this season.
Spring Chinook returns to the Deschutes – both wild and hatchery -- have been depressed the last several years, French said. However, this year’s return could be especially hard hit due to a very low number of hatchery fish expected to return to the Round Butte Hatchery.
In order to ensure that the hatchery is able to collect enough brood stock to meet production goals, fishery managers have determined the Deschutes will remain closed to spring Chinook under permanent rule. In years with good returns, a spring Chinook fishery has been opened under emergency rules.
Fishery managers are unsure why returns to the hatchery are down.
“Smolt releases from Round Butte have remained constant in recent years, but the number of fish returning has been declining,” French said. “We’re working to determine what’s causing the poor survival of these hatchery releases.”
The fall Chinook season on the Deschutes River will open Aug. 1. Unlike the wild spring Chinook population, the wild fall Chinook population in the Deschutes is one of the healthiest stocks in the Columbia Basin, and the anticipated return should be well above management goals.
“All indications are fishing could be as good as last year, when a near-record number of fall Chinook returned to the Deschutes and fishing was excellent,” French said.