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Wild winter steelhead may be MIA; or just unseen in high water

BY BILL MONROE
For The Oregonian/OregonLive
Garth Wyatt, a biologist with PGE’s Clackamas River project, sorts a wild steelhead at a state-of-the-art station at North Fork Dam, east of Estacada. Hatchery steelhead are quickly and safely separated from wild fish, which are passed upriver to spawn. Hatchery fish are returned to the lower river for anglers.
Garth Wyatt, a biologist with PGE’s Clackamas River project, sorts a wild steelhead at a state-of-the-art station at North Fork Dam, east of Estacada. Hatchery steelhead are quickly and safely separated from wild fish, which are passed upriver to spawn. Hatchery fish are returned to the lower river for anglers. (Bill Monroe)
If you think you had a pretty slow winter steelhead season, you’re not alone.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife held its end-of-season meeting Wednesday for spawning survey crews and it doesn’t look good.

Mark Lewis, the department’s spawning survey program leader in Corvallis, said the formal assessment won’t be available for awhile, but the annual check of spawning redds (nests) per mile suggest Oregon Coast returns were 40 to 60 percent of normal and lower Columbia counts, which include the lower Clackamas and Sandy rivers, were down 75 percent.

The Willamette River isn’t surveyed, but the count at Willamette Falls, typically between 5,000 and 6,000, barely inched above 800 last week. Jeff Boechler, the department’s watershed manager in Clackamas, told local sportfishing leaders Tuesday it’s the lowest return on record.

Boechler said sea lion predation may have been a factor, but an assessment isn’t completed. He said the number of sea lions below the falls was as high as 40, but was down to 17 this past week.

The exception to poor returns was on the upper Clackamas River, where Tim Shibahara, a PGE fish biologist at Faraday, said Tuesday approximately 1,100 wild steelhead over North Fork Dam is about 80 percent of a normal count.

Source:  http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/oregonian/bill_monroe/index.ssf/2017/06/wild_winter_steelhead_may_be_m.html

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