Fried fish: heat brings more fish kills, regulations

In the wake of continued above-average high temperatures, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has instituted new fishing regulations to help mitigate the stress on salmon and other fish that has been caused by the heat and low water levels.

We reported last week about how hatcheries around the Pacific Northwest had released fish early due to the heat. On Saturday, the ODFW added new regulations that prohibited anglers from fishing for trout, salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise on “all waterbodies defined as streams in the 2015 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations... above tidewater.”

The regulations, which went into effect Saturday, did spare some rivers that “are less prone to high water temperature risks due to springs, tides, cold water releases from some dams and high elevations.” Examples included the Hood River and its tributaries, the White River and its tributaries, and portions of the Deschutes.

The mainstem of the Columbia River was not affected by the ruling, although soon after the regulations were announced, ODFW closed the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington border upstream of McNary Dam to sturgeon fishing after fishery managers reviewed “survey reports that showed increased sturgeon mortality as a result of the drought conditions in some of the mid-Columbia River reservoir.”

The regulations came just a day after ODFW announced that a die-off of 109 wild spring Chinook was discovered in the upper section of the middle fork of the John Day River. According to ODFW, the fish kill was “apparently due to low river flows and warm temperatures,” although it was noted that the section of river already consisted of a wide and shallow channel and a lack of riparian vegetation that can cause fast changes in water temperature.

The announcement of the John Day River die-off comes a week after ODFW announced a somewhat related die-off in the Deschutes, where 45 dead or distressed sockeye salmon were discovered afflicted with a bacterial infection normally associated with high water temperatures.

To help reduce fish impacts, ODFW has encouraged anglers to fish for warm water species and to keep fish in the water for as long as possible when doing catch-and-release fishing. For more info on these tips and the new fishing regulations, head to the ODFW website at

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