GOLD BEACH, Ore – Wild winter steelhead and Pacific lamprey are now actively spawning in southern Oregon coastal streams. Unfortunately, spawning is happening during low water flows that are more characteristic of early summer than spring and may put these and other fish species at risk from human activity.
ODFW fish biologists are encouraging people to take steps to protect the fish species in these streams. Landowners should not clear native vegetation along streams that run through their property. Recreationists should not to drive vehicles across creeks which can destroy redds (fish nests) of wild winter steelhead and Pacific lamprey and the fall Chinook salmon fry that are just beginning to emerge from the gravel. Normally, flows would be higher this time of year, and people would not be crossing rivers and creeks with ATVs or vehicles.
“We’re seeing flows right now that are typical of early summer, and we’re concerned about water temperatures heating up sooner if riparian vegetation is removed,” said Steve Mazur, Gold Beach district fish biologist. “Spawning activity typically occurs at the bottom end of pools as the water shallows and starts to speed up. This is where livestock and vehicles tend to cross and impact the redds.”
Mazur also encourages landowners living along some of the smaller south coast streams to start thinking about conserving water and leaving a little bit more in the streams for fish
ODFW is surveying smaller watersheds to monitor wild winter steelhead spawning and help inform development of the draft Rogue-South Coast Multispecies Conservation and Management Plan. The plan identifies habitat (including water quality and quantity) as a main limiting factor for winter and summer steelhead, coho salmon, and coastal cutthroat trout.
The most vulnerable watershed where ODFW is seeing impacts to riparian and spawning areas are in Hunter Creek and the Winchuck and Elk rivers.