Hatchery closes fish trap for season after decent season

Bill Nyara

For The New Era

This year’s trapping and recycling program on the South Santiam River will come to a close Friday, July 29.

The crew at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s South Santiam Hatchery has recycled fish since February, with more than 5,900 fish trucked downstream. This provides anglers with a second or third chance at catching these chinook and steelhead.

South Santiam Hatchery typically closes the ladder and trap at Foster Dam in mid-July. This allows for annual maintenance to be performed. All of the agency’s program needs have been met by this time, including brood stock collection and out-planting to other streams. The spring chinook fishery has all but vanished by this time of year and the fish do not haul very well when recycled back downstream by truck.

Most of them are in poor condition as they near their spawning time. As you can imagine, it is impossible to just trap steelhead only and not chinook also. This year’s extra two weeks of recycling provides a little extra chance at the steelhead.

Of the summer steelhead recycled downstream this year, 36 percent were released at Waterloo Park, 45 percent at Pleasant Valley Bridge and 19 percent at Wiley Creek Park. This is very similar to last year’s distribution of fish.

We are in the process of out-planting up to 600 spring chinook to Wiley Creek, Crabtree Creek and Thomas Creek before we close the trap this week. This out-planting has been a standard practice for a number of years. It is hoped that these hatchery fish will successfully spawn in these tributaries. The carcasses of these fish also will also provide nutrient enrichment for the streams.

This year’s spring chinook and summer steelhead run looks similar to the 2000 run year. That year we had a total of 3,864 chinook. So far this year, we’ve had 3,600 fish. The steelhead run in the year 2000 was 4,100 fish compared to this year’s 4,209 fish.

So my earlier run prediction of 3,191 chinook and 2,673 steelhead was low but I’m not disappointed at all. Given the overall Willamette River run, we got our fair share of fish this year.