Size and harvest limits for game fish temporarily lifted on Howard Prairie Reservoir

CENTRAL POINT, Ore – ODFW temporarily lifted size and harvest limits for all game fish at Howard Prairie Reservoir beginning today, June 10 – September 30, 2020. With the high likelihood of a fish kill due to low water levels, expected heat waves, and summer irrigation drawdown, biologists hope anglers will harvest some of these fish now.

Conditions at Howard Prairie are similar to those in 1992-1993 when the reservoir dropped to its lowest level on record and boat ramps closed due to low water. ODFW STEP biologist Ryan Battleson believes these conditions, combined with a lack of fishing pressure early in the season due to COVID-19 restrictions could lead to a potential fish kill and wants to see those fish harvested instead.

“We’re encouraging people to take advantage of the opportunity to harvest as many fish as possible at Howard Prairie while still practicing social distancing,” said Ryan Battleson, ODFW STEP biologist. “We strongly urge anglers to maintain social distancing while the county enters Phase 2 of reopening, and we may need to adapt if problems develop.”

Harvest method and gear regulations remain the same and anglers choosing to use two fishing rods must have the two-rod validation. Harvested fish must not be wasted. Battleson said Howard Prairie trout are excellent table fare and have a nice fillet color.

There was not enough precipitation this past winter/spring to fill the reservoir and with needs for summer irrigation in the Rogue Valley outpacing the supply of current storage, Battleson wants to see the reservoir’s fish harvested. While attempting to meet the needs of irrigation patrons amid a developing drought, the local irrigation district indicated drawdown could get the reservoir to near historic levels by late summer, and possibly dead pool elevation by the end of the year.

Dead pool is the elevation at which no more water could be drained from the reservoir. Currently, Howard Prairie is just 25 percent full and the marina and docks are dry.

No paved boat ramps are currently available. Most angling will be best from personal watercraft or from shore. Afternoon northwest winds do pick up at Howard Prairie, so small vessel anglers should be aware and plan accordingly. ODFW will partner with local bass clubs to begin salvaging large bass for translocation to other local lakes managed for bass including Emigrant Reservoir and Lost Creek Reservoir.

Anglers are asked be mindful of the Governor’s Executive Order and:

Stay home if you are sick.
Stick close to home. Don’t travel far to hunt or fish.
Be prepared. Restrooms and other facilities may be more limited. Bring your own soap, water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, food, etc. Buy your license online before you go.
Avoid crowds. Go someplace else if your destination looks crowded.
Practice social distancing. Keep six feet between you and anyone who doesn’t live in your immediate household, including while on a boat or at a fish cleaning station.
Wash your hands often. Keep up on personal hygiene and bring your own water, soap, and hand sanitizer with you.
Pack out what you pack in. Take any garbage with you, including disposable gloves and masks.