MOLALLA RIVER STEWARDS
Native fish of the Molalla River
- Resident rainbow trout
- Resident cutthoat trout
- Winter steelhead (ESA listed)
- Spring chinook (ESA listed)
- Pacific lamprey
The Molalla River is a tributary of the Willamette River above the falls. Like other west-side tributaries it has the flows and habitat to support native winter steelhead, spring chinook and resident cutthroat trout.
The watershed has been treated as a timber mine and has suffered the consequences, however, the Table Rock Fork flows through a wilderness and this stream could be considered a reference stream for the entire watershed. Other threats include gravel mining, agriculture, water quality problems relating to temperature and sediment, water withdrawals, urban development, harvest management, hatchery releases, logging, sewage treatment discharge and more.
Non-native winter and summer steelhead have been released in this watershed, but those releases have been eliminated as the state attempts to comply with the Native Fish Policy and restore the wild winter steelhead, listed as a threatened species under the federal ESA. However, a naturalized summer steelhead population has established itself and presents a conflict with wild winter steelhead recovery.
Spring Chinook are native to the river, but the state still releases non-native spring chinook from Willamette River hatcheries. The spring chinook are listed as a threatened species in the Willamette and its tributaries, but the Molalla River may no longer have a wild, native run. To confirm this, a genetic inventory must be completed. If the native chinook population is not extinct, the goal is to eliminate the release of non-native fish and recover the wild spring chinook in the watershed.
Trout stocking has also been eliminated from this river in order to protect wild steelhead and chinook, however, the stream is still open to bait angling and this must be converted to a regulation that allows catch and release of trout using artificial lures only.
The Native Fish Stewards for the river are Mark Schmidt and Tom Derry who are busy learning the watershed and its fish populations. Through a joint project with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the stewards are currently undertaking spawning surveys of winter steelhead and Spring chinook.
Additonal reading: Ecological and Recreational Benefits of the Molalla River, OR