SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A drought is forcing Oregon to consider major changes this summer to everything from how it stocks trout in lakes and reservoirs across the state to when it will release some species of fish from hatcheries.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife also is considering relocating some fish species to save them and doing away with bag limits for recreational anglers because of the extended drought, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday.
Officials say stream flows are at 25% of normal and migratory fish like salmon and steelhead will be most affected, particularly in areas along the coast and in smaller tributaries.
The state typically stocks lakes and reservoirs around the state with trout for recreational anglers, but some of those have unusually low water levels or are already dry, said Shaun Clements, the agency's deputy administrator for inland fisheries.
“So, we obviously can’t put fish into them. So, we’ll be changing where we stock and when we stock," he said.
Fishermen may be required to fish earlier in the day and use barbless hooks so already-stressed fish can be released quickly, OPB reported. The state could also remove bag level limits in some areas and release species like salmon from hatcheries earlier in the summer to ensure they have adequate water to migrate to the Pacific Ocean.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 72% of Oregon is in severe or extreme drought status.
“We are going to be seeing more of these drought events through time because of climate change. There’s a lot of projections around for these mega droughts which are 10- to 20-year droughts,” Clements said. “So, this is going to become the new normal.”
Regulation changes will be posted on ODFW's website by fishing zone.