The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is planning to shut down afternoon fishing on most rivers and creeks in Oregon, and prohibit fishing on the lower Willamette River, in an unprecedented step resulting from statewide drought.

In a move aimed at avoiding stress to native fish suffering from high water temperatures and low stream flows, fishing will be closed on trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise on all but a handful of streams around the state beginning Saturday.

“We’ve never had to do anything like this before,” said Bruce McIntosh, assistant administrator of ODFW’s Fish Division. “We’ve had selective closures, but we’ve never gone to a statewide approach like this. This is new territory.”

The rules do not apply to lakes, reservoirs or the ocean. Anglers can still fish for warmwater species including smallmouth bass or crappie in all streams.

The move comes on the heels of multiple fish die-offs hitting salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from the Willamette to the John Day rivers.

In streams hit the hardest, including the lower Willamette and Clackamas rivers, fishing will be shut down completely for the four species in question. In some spring-fed mountain rivers with cooler water, including the Metolius River and the North Santiam above Detroit Reservoir, normal fishing hours will stay in effect.

(See info box below for breakdown of rivers impacted by this rule).

“This action isn’t a cure-all, because we’re still expecting to see mortality and disease due to the warm weather,” said Chris Kern, ODFW Assistant Columbia River Fisheries Manager. “But right now we’re looking for even marginal actions that can help reduce stress on fish, and this is one thing we can do.”

McIntosh said the idea was borrowed from Montana, which occasionally limits fishing to the morning hours when cooler temperatures make fish more resilient.

“Given the heat, fish are already stressed by the afternoon, and when you add hooking and handling them, it’s another load for them to bear and potentially a deadly one,” McIntosh said. “Our goal is just to give fish a break. There are still plenty of places for people to fish.”

ODFW recommended that anglers check the weekly recreation report on the ODFW website for updates on stocking, water conditions and boating access.

“As extreme weather events become more frequent due to climate change, we need to be prepared for the stress these conditions will have on fish, wildlife and their habitats,” said Ed Bowles, Fish Division Administrator. “Planning for the effects of these changing climatic conditions presents a unique challenge for us, yet we are committed to doing our best to enhance resiliency to climate change and avoid significant impacts on our natural resources.”

Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for seven years. He is the author of the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and can be reached at [email protected] or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Facebook at Zach’s Oregon Outdoors or @ZachsORoutdoors on Twitter.

Rivers shut down to fishing

On these sections of river, fishing will be prohibited at all times for trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.

Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls, including the Clackamas River up to the Interstate 205 Bridge, the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River.

The following sections of the John Day River will also have complete closures: The mainstem of the John Day River above Indian Creek near Prairie City; the Middle Fork of the John Day River above Mosquito Creek near the town of Galena; the North Fork of the John Day River above Desolation Creek and Desolation Creek.

Streams open for angling under normal hours (sunrise to sunset) 

All rivers and creeks in Oregon will closed to fishing for trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon after 2 p.m., beginning Saturday, except the sections of river listed below, which are open for normal hours of fishing and mostly located at higher elevations.

Northeast Zone

The Wallowa River above Sunrise Road; Lostine River above Pole Bridge Campground; Prairie Creek; Hurricane Creek; Spring Creek; and all streams within the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.

Southeast Zone

The Malheur River and its tributaries; the Owyhee River below the Owyhee Reservoir; and the Blitzen River and its tributaries above Page Springs Weir and Bridge Creek.

The Klamath River and its tributaries.

Central Zone

The Deschutes River above Macks Canyon; the Metolius River; the Fall River; the Crooked River (from mouth to Bowman Dam); and Tumalo Creek.

The Hood River and its tributaries and the White River and its tributaries.

Willamette Zone

The McKenzie River and its tributaries; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River below Dexter Dam; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and its tributaries above Lookout Point Reservoir; and Alton Baker Canoe Canal.

The mainstem of the South Santiam River below Foster Dam; Quartzville Creek; the North Santiam River above Detroit Lake; and the Breitenbush River.

Southwest Zone

The mainstem Rogue River from Fishers Ferry upstream to William Jess Dam and all tributaries upstream of the William Jess Dam and Lost Creek Reservoir.

Restricted fishing

All other rivers in Oregon, fishing is closed from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunset.

On hot days, ODFW recommends:

Use a thermometer to check water temperatures frequently. Stop fishing when temperatures exceed 70 degrees.

Consider changing locations to high elevation lakes or shaded streams near headwaters. These places are often cooler.

Use barbless hooks so you can release fish easily without harming them.

Use the appropriate gear and land fish quickly. The longer the fight, the less likely the fish will survive.

Keep the fish in the water when you unhook it and cradle the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.

Use your judgement. If conditions where you want to fish seem especially severe (low, hot water), consider fishing somewhere else where water conditions are better.

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