Hatchery and wild chinook salmon below a weir constructed on the Sandy River to prevent stray hatchery fish from spawning with wild fish. This was the strategy that ODFW employed in past years to reduce the presence of hatchery fish in wild fish spawning areas but was not intended to be permanent solution. Photo by: Ken Anderson

ODFW Considering Sandy River Angling Regulation Changes

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently taking comment on a proposal to open 25 miles of the Sandy River to boat angling access under the auspices of providing a conservation benefit to Endangered Species Act listed salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations. Specifically, the department's proposal cites the need to remove hatchery fish so as to reduce the prevalence of hatchery fish spawning in the wild and spawning with wild fish. Reducing the impact of hatchery fish on the Sandy's wild populations was at the heart of our Save Sandy Salmon campaign.

Native Fish Society, our River Stewards, and our conservation partners are troubled by this latest effort by ODFW to address the ongoing and deleterious impacts of the department's hatchery program. We are concerned that:

  • Angling from a boat or other floating device does not have a selective impact on only hatchery fish. Even catch and release angling encounters with wild fish often result in lethal and sublethal impacts that can affect reproductive success. These impacts are exacerbated when bait and barbed hooks are utilized, as would be allowed under this proposal. There is no evidence to suggest that opening this section of river to angling from boats or floating devices will substantively increase the harvest rate for hatchery fish on the Sandy River without also impacting wild fish.
  • The use of a conservation rationale for the proposed regulation change is flawed. ODFW claims that the agency is currently meeting the required standards for hatchery fish impacts on wild populations (known as percent hatchery origin spawners or pHOS). If the agency is currently meeting these standards, then what need is there to implement a "conservation angling" regulation? Of particular concern is the fact that ODFW has chosen to increase hatchery smolt outplanting on the Sandy River from 130,000 fish annual to 200,000. If the agency anticipates this action will result in increasing the rate of adult hatchery fish impacts to wild populations, then the logical conservation action is to reduce hatchery smolt outplanting.

(Our friends at The Conservation Angler put together this excellent deep dive into the issues. Check it out to learn more about the impacts of this proposal on the Sandy's wild fish and why ODFW's reasoning is flawed.)

What you can do:

ODFW is taking input via their online portal until May 26th. Please take a few moments to let the department know what the Sandy means to you, that you oppose the proposed regulation change, and that the agency should take actions --- like reducing hatchery smolt outplanting in the Sandy River --- to substantively reduce the impacts of hatchery fish on wild fish.

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