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McKenzie River Chinook angling closed for the season

Numbers of returning fish are way below normal

Chinook salmon angling in the McKenzie River ended on Monday, July 8th, and will remain in effect through the end of the year. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) reports it took the step to protect unexpectedly small runs of both wild and hatchery Chinook salmon that have been observed at the Leaburg Dam this year. Biologists say continued angling pressure on the small return of salmon could jeopardize meeting conservation targets upstream of Leaburg Dam and broodstock needs for future hatchery production. ODFW says it does not currently know what factors may have caused this small run.

Factors leading to the decision to close the Chinook fishery on the McKenzie River were related to the upper Willamette spring Chinook return to Willamette Falls near Oregon City. Activity there is normally 80-90% complete by now and the number of Chinook coming over the falls is decreasing. In addition, the wild (unclipped) adult salmon returns over Leaburg typically amount to 1,200 – 1,800 fish per year. The average number of unclipped fish upstream by June 28th for the past three years has been 570 fish. As of July 1st, however, only 272 were counted, less than half the average.

The numbers of adult Chinook returning to the McKenzie River suggest this year could be the lowest wild Chinook return on record, potentially lower than when Willamette spring Chinook was listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 1990s.

Currently, ODFW has collected less than 60 adults at Leaburg. Hatchery operations require around 225 hatchery spring Chinook pairs (450 fish total, including 225 females) to meet the production goals for the McKenzie River.


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