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C. Oregon fishing season looks good, thanks to snowy winter

But steelhead runs in trouble

Fishing season for Central Oregon

BEND, Ore. - High snowpack levels are having a ripple effect across our state. In Central Oregon, it means later controlled burns, higher grass levels, a longer ski season and longer trail access. But mostly, it means more water.

According to Brett Hodgson, the acting manager for the Deschutes Watershed, more water is typically a good sign for the upcoming fishing season. 

"A good snowpack and good water years is very good for fish," Hodgson said Tuesday.  "It provides a supply of water for both agricultural use and leaves sufficient flows in stream."

David Merrick, the manager of Fly and Field Outfitters, agrees that fishing season gets a major boost from a high snowpack level. 

"Having more water, always, in the long run, is a good thing," Merrick said. "Having more water in the reservoirs, a little more water in the rivers, is going to bode well for us well in to August."

Despite the positive outlook, the high water levels won't change Oregon's low steelhead population, at least not yet.

A recent report found steelhead in the Santiam and Willamette rivers are at record lows dating back some 40 years.

There are typically about 5,600 wild winter steelhead that cross through the Willamette Falls each year, but this year, it was only about 800.

In Central Oregon, according to Hodgson, efforts are currently underway to bring back the steelhead population.

"We are trying to reintroduce and re establish a steelhead population into Wychus Creek around Sisters, the Middle Deschutes (River) around Redmond and in the Crooked River around Prineville Reservoir, but that is a very long-term effort," he said. "We're not seeing a lot of adult steelhead returning yet."

Despite that, locals, including Merrick, remain upbeat. 

"We in the fishing population, we want the same result. We're all looking for a positive growth of the steelhead runs and all the fisheries in runs. We're the optimistic type, so we remain hopeful that all those efforts are working and going in the right direction," Merrick said. 

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the lakes are stocked, the entire Lower Deschutes River is now open to trout fishing and Crane Prairie is looking good, if you're looking for trout.


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