Wild spring Chinook will be catch and release only for next season on mainstem Umpqua

This photo from 2016 shows a Chinook salmon on a hook. Anglers won't be able to keep wild spring Chinook on the mainstem of the Umpqua in the coming season due to low returns.

ROSEBURG

Anglers fishing for wild spring Chinook (jacks and adults) from Feb. 1 to June 30 will not be able to keep them; only hatchery chinook can be kept, according to a news release from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

North Umpqua River anglers can still keep wild spring Chinook as per the 2021 aggregate bag limit regulations.

This emergency rule for mainstem wild spring Chinook was also in effect during the 2020 season to help protect a vulnerable population that returns to the South Umpqua River. Recent low returns of wild spring Chinook to the South Umpqua (120 this year, 64 in 2019, 29 in 2018) are of concern to ODFW and other partner agencies.

Over the past two decades, yearly returns averaged about 200 fish, which is below the 600 fish goal set in ODFW’s Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan (page 167). One of the highest priority conservation goals in the Plan is improving the status of the South Umpqua spring Chinook salmon population. Harvest is one of several limiting factors identified for this population, and harvest in the mainstem Umpqua fishery is considered a significant risk at current abundance levels.

“With continued low returns of spring Chinook to the South Umpqua, we believe this management action is still appropriate to help this vulnerable population,” said ODFW District fish biologist Greg Huchko.  “It is encouraging to see the numbers increase over the past three years, but we are still well below average.”

Poor ocean conditions have resulted in reduced salmon runs on most coastal rivers in recent years. Warmer water temperatures and flows lower than normal on the South Umpqua are also impacting this population.

The South Umpqua run of wild spring Chinook is a unique population that has always faced tough conditions. To survive to spawn, these fish must get above Tiller and spend the summer holding in a limited amount of deep pools where they are susceptible to predation and poaching. 

Over the past several years, ODFW and partner agencies have been part of a working group identifying and addressing possible limiting factors and causes of declines for these fish. This year that group worked together to modify the South Umpqua Falls fish ladder to improve passage at lower flows. The working group also plans increased monitoring and research, greater enforcement against poaching, and evaluating and limiting predation impacts on Chinook in the upper South Umpqua.

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