CORVALLIS, Ore. — Santiam River anglers should be aware of a new regulation in effect this year to protect threatened wild winter steelhead.
New for 2021, the use of bait is only allowed from April 22-Oct. 31 in the Santiam River mainstem, the North Santiam River up to Minto Dam and the South Santiam up to Foster Dam. These changes are highlighted in yellow in the permanent regulations, http://www.eregulations.com/oregon/fishing/willamette-zone/
That means anglers are restricted to artificial flies and lures from Nov. 1-April 21 in these areas of the Santiam River. (Fish tend to swallow baited hooks at a higher rate than flies and lures so the regulation is meant to reduce the risk of hooking mortality to winter steelhead.) During this time of year, there are very few hatchery salmon and steelhead as the bulk of the sportfish are ESA-threatened winter steelhead.
While winter steelhead numbers have improved since dropping to an all-time low in 2017, this year’s run is below the 10-year average (1,494 adults above Willamette Falls as of March 14).
While anglers cannot keep wild winter steelhead, they can still fish for and retain hatchery steelhead or hatchery spring Chinook. The peak run timing for these fish in the Santiam basin is usually in May and June, though some early fish do arrive in April. Hatchery summer steelhead have their adipose fin removed while wild steelhead have theirs intact.
If you do inadvertently catch a wild winter steelhead, please release it safely using these catch-and-release tips https://myodfw.com/articles/catch-and-release-tips-reduce-fish-mortality.