PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) — Due to ongoing drought and low water, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday it is closing fishing in the Crooked River and Ochoco Creek from Saturday until at least Oct. 31.
After several years of persistent drought in Central Oregon, streamflows and reservoirs in this region have reached historic lows. During the summer, water is released from the Prineville and Ochoco reservoirs into the Crooked River and Ochoco Creek for irrigators downstream of the dams. These releases also serve to maintain adequate flows for resident gamefish, including native redband trout and mountain whitefish.
This year, the irrigation season is ending several weeks earlier than usual. As a result, minimal water will be released from the reservoirs during the next month or more, resulting in a significant decrease in available habitat for resident gamefish species, ODFW said. Fish will concentrate in the remaining pool habitats and face increased competition for food resources, as well as being more vulnerable to predators.
In similar low-flow situations, ODFW will sometimes take restrictions off angling to reduce the population to a level that can be supported by the reduced available habitat.
But ODFW data shows that the Crooked River fishery is dominated by catch-and-release anglers. The fishing closure is meant to reduce additional stress and mortality caused by catch-and-release fishing that can occur under low-flow and high-density conditions, the agency said.
"We know the angling community in this area has already come out in support of a closure, with many anglers choosing to stop fishing voluntarily. We thank them for working with us to protect these fish," said Jerry George, ODFW district fish biologist.
"While the closure will help protect fish congregating in the limited waters available, ODFW still anticipates a reduction in the size of these fish populations due to the low flows," continued George. "These populations can rebound relatively quickly, if conditions improve, but that will require a lot more rain and snow than we have been seeing in recent years."
The exact regulation is as follows: from Sept. 24 through Oct. 31, fishing is closed:
- On the Crooked River from the Hwy. 97 Bridge (near Terrebonne) upstream to Bowman Dam
- On Ochoco Creek from the mouth at the confluence with the Crooked River upstream to Ochoco Dam
Find the latest regulations for the Central Zone my visiting the Recreation Report / Fishing Report for the zone and clicking Regulation Updates https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/central-zone