Odds for catching a steelhead increase

Southern Oregonians more interested in wetting a line than standing in a line during Black Friday's shopping barrage now have a better chance of catching a steelhead in the upper Rogue River than they did earlier this week.

Cole Rivers Hatchery workers recycled 285 excess summer steelhead from the Trail-area facility back into the upper Rogue on Wednesday to give anglers another shot at catching these fish.

It's the first return of so-called "retread steelhead" into the upper Rogue in more than two months after a lack of rain and cold water temperatures have stymied steelhead migration.

Hatchery Manager David Pease says Tuesday's collection pond had enough excess fish in it to justify trucking a load down to the Gold Hill boat ramp, where retreads are released. But he was glad to see the pond percolate with enough steelhead to make Wednesday's run viable.

"We always try to do some this time of year," Pease says. "With the holiday, I know people are off and for those who are going fishing, this gives them a better chance to catch a steelhead."

Similarly, Pease plans to recycle another batch of retreads just before Christmas, "but if we have enough, we'll run another load before then," he says.

Typically, the Christmas Week recycle is the final of the season because summer steelhead are prepping to spawn and curbing retreads reduces the likelihood of hatchery fish straying onto wild summer steelhead spawning grounds.

Hatchery workers haven't recycled any steelhead since Sept. 19, when 500 got the downstream truck trip in this popular program that gives anglers a second — and sometimes a third and fourth chance — to catch excess steelhead that reach the hatchery.

Before Wednesday's release, hatchery workers have recycled 836 adult steelhead.

Retreads have a paper punch-sized hole punched into a gill plate to denote their status. They can be caught and kept as part of the daily limit of two fin-clipped steelhead a day at least 16 inches long.

— Mark Freeman

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