HINES – Biologists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are urging anglers to take extra precautions when catching and releasing trout on the Owyhee River.
According to Shannon Hurn, ODFW fish biologist in Hines, water conditions in the river are low and declining, due in part to limited water releases from Owyhee Reservoir. The reservoir is currently at 6 percent of full and releases into the river have dropped to 99 cubic feet per second. Releases into the river normally average 150 to 200 cfs this time of year.
“Some anglers have been concerned that water releases into the river may be totally cut off as water levels in the reservoir continue to decline,” Hurn said. “The irrigation district has told us this is not going to happen, but we’re probably going to have some low water conditions sooner than normal this fall.”
Low water does warm up faster, and makes targeting trout easier as they congregate in deeper water. Warm water does not hold as much oxygen as cooler water and this means it can take fish longer to recover when they are caught and released.
Anglers also will want to watch for spawning brown trout, Hurn added. The non-native brown trout are winter spawners and will be heading upriver to find gravel beds to spawn on from October to January. Anglers should not target spawning fish or walk across spawning beds.
Hurn said anglers can continue to fish safely if they follow a few low water precautions:
• Fish early in the mornings when water temperatures are cooler.
• Use barbless hooks, land fish quickly and keep them in the water as much as possible in order to minimize stress.
• Avoid fishing for actively spawning fish, crossing the river on spawning beds, or stepping on redds (large divots with clean gravel).