With the recent removal of Powerdale Dam on the lower Hood River, salmon and steelhead anglers will see a big change in regulations for the future. Fishing for anything but trout has been restricted to below the dam for more than ten years. That gave anglers just a few miles of river to share and just a handful of good spots to battle over.
Starting last fall for steelhead and this spring for salmon, the river is open from the confluence at the Columbia to 200 feet below Punchbowl Falls; which is a return to the regulations that were in place until the late 1990s.
"It is a huge change," said Jason Seals, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist. "There's only a handful of good holes that hold steelhead below the dam. The change opens up much more of the river. I think it's going to make a big difference in the quality of experience people have out there."
The reason for the change has a lot to do with regulating the number of hatchery fish in the river. When Powerdale was in place, ODFW only allowed a certain number of hatchery fish upstream. Using a fish trapping facility, the agency would recycle hatchery fish back downstream to the mouth of the Hood River, or relocate them to a couple area lakes.
Now that the river is opened up, ODFW is hoping sport fishing will continue to reduce the number of hatchery fish that make it all the way upstream to spawning grounds.
Bag limits have not been changed, and only fin-clipped hatchery fish can be retained from the river.