Trout Unlimited and Wild Steelheaders United applaud the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for taking action to protect wild summer steelhead in the North Umpqua River. Last week, the ODFW sent out a press release announcing that the heralded “Fly Water” of the North Umpqua will be closed to angling from 2:00 p.m. until one hour before sunrise beginning today, Aug. 6, to protect wild summer steelhead. This closure follows an emergency regulation last week that prohibited angling within a 200 feet radius of all tributaries in the mainstem Umpqua River and in the tributaries themselves from the mouth to 200 feet upstream from Scottsburg Bridge to River Forks Boat Ramp.
Exceptionally low flows and higher water temperatures this time of year, combined with preliminary data indicating the wild summer steelhead run may be below average, prompted fishery managers to enact the closure. As we have discussed in some of our Science Friday posts, these conditions impose a lot of stress on coldwater-loving fish who are holding onto their fat stores to survive the summer months in order to spawn next year.
Ultimately, restoring our wild steelhead runs and sustaining our angling tradition boils down to practicing a strong conservation ethic, restoring and improving habitat any way we can, paying attention to on-the-ground conditions, and always being mindful of our limited numbers of wild steelhead. There are “best practices” for steelhead angling that every steelheader should know by heart and commit themselves to: not fishing when water temps exceed 68 degrees; practicing Four is Enough (or maybe even one or two is enough); and proper catch and release techniques.
Our thanks to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for enacting regulations to protect summer run steelhead during these vulnerable hot months. And our thanks to our fellow anglers for exercising caution when pursuing the fish we all love so much.