The drought’s threat to hatchery-reared trout and other fish is prompting Oregon to consider big changes in how it stocks fish and manages fishing regulations.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 72% of the state is in severe or extreme drought status. That’s prompting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider removing bag level limits in some areas, releasing fish earlier in the summer from hatcheries into lakes and streams, and relocating fish to a different body of water to save them.

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“Our trout stocking, we typically stock a number of water bodies in the state and at present some of those water bodies either have a very low or no water,” Deputy Administrator for Inland Fisheries Shaun Clements said. “So, we obviously can’t put fish into them. So, we’ll be changing where we stock and when we stock.”

The carcass of a Chinook salmon on the bank of the Clackamas River, the apparent victim of high water temperatures during the summer of 2015.

The carcass of a Chinook salmon on the bank of the Clackamas River, the apparent victim of high water temperatures during the summer of 2015.

Rick Swart / Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

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Clements said March and April were unusually dry, setting the stage for a drier 2015, the last time Oregon experienced such a serious drought.

“We’ve had very little rain this month, like historically little rain and because of that and the warm temperature, our stream flows are at 25% of what they would normally be at that time of year,” he said.

Impacts to fish populations will vary across the state but migratory fish like salmon and steelhead and areas and tributaries along the coast may see the biggest impact.

“We are going to be seeing more of these drought events through time because of climate change. There’s a lot of projections around for these mega droughts which are 10- to 20-year droughts,” Clements said. “So, this is going to become the new normal.”

ODFW suggests anglers may be required to fish in the earlier, cooler time of day and to use barbless hooks so already-stressed fish can be released easily and quickly.

Regulation changes will be posted in the Recreation Report by fishing zone.

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