KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – The Sprague River near Klamath Falls will close to all fishing beginning Monday, Jan. 23 through April 21, 2017.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the emergency regulation today in order to protect spawning redband trout from the stress and mortality associated with fishing pressure and handling.
The redband trout spawning in the Sprague River spend much of their lives in Upper Klamath Lake and move into the river, up to 91 miles (one way), to spawn. Fish then return to the lake to recondition and most will spawn again, some up to six times. According to Bill Tinniswood, ODFW fish biologist in Klamath Falls, the fish tend to spawn in highly concentrated areas, making them very susceptible to fishing pressure.
Traditionally, the river had been closed to fishing after Oct. 31 to protect spawning fish. However, in order to increase fishing opportunity the river was opened to year-round fishing in 2014. According to Tinniswood, the expanded season on the Sprague was made with the understanding that if fishing pressure increased too much on the spawning areas, the new regulations would be re-considered.
“We thought the spawning areas would be protected because the surrounding private property would limit access,” Tinniswood said. Instead, fishing for these spawning trout has become an increasingly popular fishery.
“The way people have been pounding on these spawners is similar to “buck fever” in hunting,” Tinniswood said. Interviewed anglers have reported catching over a hundred spawning trout during the spawning season that began in November, he added.
Redband trout are on the state’s Sensitive Species List, and there are several genetically unique populations that spawn in the Sprague. Tinniswood anticipates that future regulations will again prohibit fishing after Oct. 31 in order to protect these fish.
“These fish and their offspring are the future of the Upper Klamath Lake and Williamson River trophy trout fisheries,” he said.