Coastal Oregon Steelhead – Winter and Summer Run Populations

The summer steelhead pictured here, just prior to its release, is a hatchery fish that was stocked and  caught on the Middle Fork of the Willamette.

The Middle Fork hatchery steelhead program is remarkable from the standpoint that it supports a robust recreational fishery during the spring, summer, and autumn, within minutes of zillions of people who live in the Eugene & Springfield area.

Winter steelhead are not native to the Middle fork, and the naive run of wild spring chinook has been all but erased by the salmon problems associated with Dexter Dam, Lookout Point Dam, and Hills Creek Dam.

This is a preamble to a question: do you ever wonder how many populations of summer and winter steelhead the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife categorizes on the Oregon Coast?  The majority of anglers I have met spend most of their time trying to figure out how to catch a steelhead, or how to catch more steelhead, than pondering population classifications and steelhead management policy.

Just to keep the science of steelhead management on the table for anyone who cares to discuss such matters, I assembled the following table that summarizes, as closely as I could, ODFW’s list of native, coastal steelhead populations.

Among the key  concepts that this table displays, is that there are two Species Management Units on the Oregon coast,Coastal and Rogue SMUs;  but only three native summer steelhead populations, compared to roughly 31 winter steelhead populations.

One could ask whether or not classification of these population units could be informed by more or newer data, but it is clear that native populations of summer steelhead are rare in Oregon coastal rivers, even more rare than the populations of spring-run Chinook classified by ODFW.

FYI, this information was compiled from the ODFW Native Fish Status Report.

Hope you find this interesting.


One thought on “Coastal Oregon Steelhead – Winter and Summer Run Populations

  1. Cool data base at ODFW. You wonder how much those runs change over time genetically. The way steelhead wander into other rivers and with the introduction of hatchery fish it would be neat to see the difference in genetics over the last 100 years. In reality the percentage would be low I suspect, <1%, remember humans and chimps share 90%+ genes. I always find it amazing how much effect a gene or two has on a species even our own. Thanks.

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