Officials lift gamefish limits at Malheur Reservoir due to drought

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted all gamefish limits, including size minimum and maximum, species and gear — at the Malheur Reservoir from now through the end of the year for all species of fish. The agency regularly stocks the body of water with rainbow trout, such as those pictured here.

MALHEUR COUNTY — Local anglers may want to know about the lifting of all gamefish limits, including size minimum and maximum, species and gear — at the Malheur Reservoir. Daily limits at the are lifted now through the end of the year for all species of fish.

The Malheur Reservoir is on the Willow Creek and is about 15 miles northwest of Brogan.

According to a news release on Monday from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, limits at the reservoir were lifted due to drought conditions and low water levels.

ODFW staff have observed fish kills during previous winters when such conditions exist, according to the release.

“Based on the developing La Nina and associated projections for a cooler winter, ODFW believes there is a high likelihood that conditions in the reservoir will become lethal for fish this winter,” it reads.

The reduction of limits and gear restrictions isn’t one he takes lightly, said Dave Banks, district fish biologist for ODFW. However, past experience with water levels that are low such as this year indicate fish will die off during the winter due to low oxygen levels. Low water levels during the fall and ice in winter creates a low oxygen level situation that could be lethal for fish survival. When the reservoir surface freezes, it will trap any remaining oxygen under the ice.

“My goal with the removal of limits and gear restrictions is to provide opportunities for anglers to use these fish,” he said.

The state will restock the reservoir with rainbow trout in spring of 2022 in order to begin rebuilding the fishery, according to the release. Officials state that 3- to 4-inch fingerlings should be about 8- to 11-inches long by the first fall, and 14 to 16 inches by their second fall.

Rather than release any fish that are caught at the reservoir now through spring, officials urge anglers to keep them in order to improve the likelihood of survival of those fish that remain there through the winter. For more information, contact the Ontario ODFW office at (541) 889-6975.

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