Southwest Oregon Access Projects

Howard Prairie reservoir - southwest oregonThe Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other organizations throughout the state, continue to improve boating and angling in Oregon lakes, rivers and streams. Here are a few highlights of improvements in the Southwest part of the state in recent months:

South Coast Fish District

Garrison Lake – Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has designated this lake as a trophy rainbow trout fishery, said District Fish Biologist Todd Confer. In Spring 2016, staff stocked the lake with 1,000 trout that were 2 pounds or larger in size, about six times larger than the typical fish stocked in that area. They will add another 1,300 trophy trout next spring.

Sixes River – In August, nonprofit Curry Citizens for Public Land Access improved the ODFW Mid-Drift Angling Access on the Sixes River. They cleared brush, and graded both the parking area and the access area onto the gravel bar. This will improve access for launching and landing drift boats during the fall Chinook salmon and winter steelhead fishing seasons. Continue Reading →

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Coastal Fall Chinook

Oregon Fall ChinookSalmon fishing is an Oregon tradition. And when the coastal fall Chinook season opens each year, anglers are ready to catch this large fish, a Pacific Northwest delicacy.

What they may not realize is what has happened behind the scenes, year-round, to make the fishing season a success.

Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program volunteers work continuously to spawn, raise and release fish. Meanwhile, Restoration and Enhancement program funds support their efforts by supplying fish food, improving their facilities and funding projects to improve fishing.

Together, these programs help provide a great catch for Oregon anglers. Continue Reading →

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Bucket biology and its impact on Oregon’s fisheries (Part 1)

bucket biology

In the cool waters of Diamond Lake, anglers can fish for rainbow trout surrounded by the beauty of Diamond Peak and the encompassing forest.

In eastern Oregon’s Ontario, at a location accessible by car, entry-level anglers can find easy fishing success thanks to a schooling blue gill population.

And in the mountainous areas of Central Oregon, fisheries for kokanee, brown trout and rainbow trout are alive and well in Paulina and East lakes, part of the Newberry Crater.

Yet these fisheries and many others like them throughout Oregon are always at risk thanks to a silent danger that could at any time begin lurking below their surfaces.

Invasive species introduced to the lakes and reservoirs by individuals who dump leftover live bait into the water, not realizing the harm, or by others who want to change the fishing grounds themselves, take over.

This so-called “bucket biology” is harmful to fisheries, disappointing for anglers who count on getting a good catch at their favorite lakes, and it’s illegal with a hefty fine for those who are caught.

Continue Reading →

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ODFW STEP turns 35 this year!

ODFW Step birthday

When STEP biologist Tom Rumreich thinks about how much good the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program has done for fish and habitat in its 35 years, he thinks of the volunteers who’ve planted countless trees to shape and stabilize banks.

He can picture the multitude of children who’ve had the opportunity to catch and learn about fish.

He recalls a creek restoration project in the program’s earliest days, where gravel and hatchbox fry Coho salmon were added where habitat had been damaged. He’s excited today to know that now, three-and-a-half decades later the Coho are still there.

In other projects, volunteers have corrected fish passage in places where barriers kept salmon from getting back to historic spawning areas.

“The small streams and barriers like that, looking at them individually, it’s not significant, but when you look at them collectively along the coast of Oregon, it’s huge,” Rumreich said.

Continue Reading →

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North coast High School program teaches students fisheries biology

North Coast High School Program

Not every 16-year-old kid knows how to work with spawning salmon, incubate a freshwater fish egg, rear the juveniles and then release them into a river or bay.

Yet quite a large number of teenagers in Clatsop County have learned exactly that in the past several decades thanks to hatchery programs at both Astoria and Warrenton high schools.

In these programs, science isn’t found only in textbooks, but in real-life examples.

“A lot of the kids are really craving that. …They want to see and experience it,” said Lee Cain, a science teacher at Astoria High School. “Once they get up close and personal with living organisms, a lot of kids are really hooked.”

Cain teaches the aquatic biology program at Astoria High.

The program began on a much smaller scale in the early 1970s, when teacher Eldon Korpela began working with students to rear salmon eggs in buckets, Cain said.

Now the program has a classroom, a data lab, a research lab and a wet lab, as well as tanks and ponds.

Students can take semester-long fisheries biology and marine biology classes.

Continue Reading →

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Meet the Bio: Katherine Nordholm

Katherine NordholmWhen Katherine Nordholm was in high school, she toured a Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program fish hatchery in the Coos Bay area.

She found herself so interested in the program, that by summer she had joined it as a volunteer.

Now, more than a decade later and with two college degrees behind her, Nordholm is a STEP biologist who works out of the Springfield office.

“It really just kind of sprung out of the experience and really enjoying the fisheries work that I did there, and wanting to make it a career,” Nordholm said. “I always thought this would be the best job ever, and now I have it.”

Nordholm, who was raised in Coos Bay, has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in fisheries science, both from Oregon State University.

In addition to volunteering for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for many years, Nordholm also worked for the department for about five years between degrees, in an entry-level position, where she did stream and coho spawning surveys and worked on the salmonid life-cycle monitoring project.

Continue Reading →

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ODFW R&E Board position open

ODFW R&E ProgramEvery year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Restoration and Enhancement Program gives $2 million to $3 million to fishery projects that benefit sport and commercial fisheries. The projects aim for a balance of both restoration and enhancement, to continually improve our state’s fishing grounds.

The program’ board studies proposed projects, listens to public comment on them, and makes recommendations for funding to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

One of the people helping to make these important project recommendations could be you.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking applicants for the board’s public-at-large position. The position is one of seven, with the others divided evenly between the commercial and sports fishing interests.

Continue Reading →

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STEP Volunteers survey metro-area steelhead at Rogue Valley’s Bear Creek

Rogue Valley - bear creek

For years STEP volunteers have trapped wild steelhead in urban areas of the Rogue Valley’s Bear Creek tributaries. During that time, it became apparent that juvenile steelhead rely on the smallest seasonal streams as refuge during high water events. What hasn’t been known is how far they travel within the watershed.

In attempt to get answers to that question, Rogue area STEP biologist Ryan Battleson and area volunteers began fin clipping juveniles caught in traps. Now when young fish are captured again in another stream survey trap, the STEP team will have a better idea of where the steelhead hideout and how far they travel within the basin.

Trapping began in 2005 in 34 Rogue Basin streams, including 11 Bear Creek Tributaries. Results exceeded expectations from the onset. Young steelhead were caught in every trap that was placed, including five streams that were thought to be fishless. Continue Reading →

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Children learn about steelhead spawning cycle

Photo by Dolly Greene - steelhead spawning

Since 2007, Florence area third graders have learned about the spawning cycle of wild steelhead from STEP volunteers. The classroom is the Whitaker Fish trap, which sits a few hundred feet from the Siuslaw River that feeds into the Pacific Ocean.

Students study not only the steelhead life cycle, but also steelhead anatomy, stream ecology and how steelhead populations positively affect local flora and fauna.

The students watch as full-grown steelhead are separated one-at-a-time. The wild fish are released up-stream from the trap to spawn naturally. The hatchery-raised fish are marked, milked of their eggs and milt, then released downstream. This process ensures that only wild steelhead spawn above the trap in Whitaker Creek. Continue Reading →

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Meet the Bio: Ryan Battleson

Ryan Battleson

Ryan Battleson, STEP’s Upper Rogue District biologist, has experience working the entire Rogue watershed, with stints in ODWF’s Gold Beach office and as a crew leader for Lower Rogue steelhead before taking his current position. His district is comprised of the upper Rogue basin east to Crater Lake and from the Cascade Range to the highest reaches of the coast range to the west.

In addition to survey work (see the lead story in this issue), Battleson works with government agencies and fishing club presidents as a member of the area watershed council, coordinates a spring salmon eggs-to-fry program for about 20 area schools, manages small riparian restoration projects, and works hand-in-hand with small stream urban landowners to increase habitat.

“This district is somewhat unique because we don’t have any large STEP hatcheries, as we sit in a highly populated area centered in the Rogue watershed. That makes the needs of the district different than most,” Battleson noted.

Did You know:

STEP volunteers improved more than 650 miles of waterways for fish last year alone through fish passage, riparian and fish carcass placement projects, and the Keep Oregon Rivers Clean (KORC) program. Get involved!

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