More retread steelies released in Rogue

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 retread steelhead into the upper Rogue in more than two months, after a lack of rain and cold water temperatures 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. 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."

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.

The Christmas week recycle is typically the final of the season because summer steelhead are prepping to spawn and curbing retreads reduces the possibility 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.

Before Wednesday's release, hatchery workers had recycled 836 adult steelhead this season.

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.

This year's summer steelhead run is down substantially from last year, based on comparisons of returns to the hatchery.

Through Tuesday, 1,600 steelhead had returned to Cole Rivers during this run. That's far under the return of 4,117 at the same time last year. The 10-year average for hatchery returns by Thanksgiving week is 1,817 fish.

Retreads that get recycled and end up back at Cole Rivers Hatchery are not counted a second time.

Most trout anglers can drop Applegate Lake from their list of possible fishing sites for the immediate future because low water levels have severely hampered access at Jackson County's second-largest reservoir.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has drawn down the reservoir to a point where the water no longer reaches the low-water access ramp at French Gulch, according to Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, which manages recreation there.

The lake's surface elevation was down this week to 1,883 feet above sea level, which is 7 feet below the end of the concrete ramp at French Gulch and 104 feet below full.

"There isn't any viable launch option now, other than a small boat that's carried in," says John McKelligott, a Forest Service recreation technician at the lake.

With steep banks and muddy shores from wind waves, bank angling is usually ignored by trout anglers in winter there.

The synopsis of 2014 Oregon angling rules is now available at fishing-license outlets and other locations, and already an error has been found in the booklet.

The new synopsis incorrectly lists the price of a Senior Citizen Combination Angling/Hunting License with a Columbia River Basin endorsement as $32.25. The license and endorsement, which is new for Columbia anglers, actually costs $35.25.

Licenses and tags for 2014 go on sale Sunday at license outlets statewide.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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