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Family fishes on the Clackamas River.

Steelheaders Show Overwhelming Support for New Broodstock Program at Clackamas Hatchery

By Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager

October 6, 2020

T he Clackamas River has historically been one of the best rivers for fishing in the greater Portland area. Unfortunately, over the past few years, the spring Chinook fishery on the Clackamas has dwindled. In the past two years alone, returns were so low that the hatchery wasn’t able to collect enough broodstock and only ten hatchery spring Chinook could be harvested.

Each year, fish are produced on the Clackamas with the same broodstock that was originally collected in 1976. Using the same broodstock for the past 40 years has resulted in hatchery fish that have less genetic diversity and overall fitness. Fitness determines how well the fish can run the marathon that is required to successfully navigate the river system and return home and spawn.

We’ve been pushing ODFW to begin the permitting process to reinvigorate the wild spring Chinook broodstock at the Clackamas Hatchery for years, and our work has started to pay off.

Earlier this year, ODFW submitted a Hatchery and Genetic Management Plan (HGMP) to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for consideration. Under this proposal, ODFW will collect spring Chinook broodstock from the Clackamas run, which is on a 3-year upward trend. To minimize impacts to the wild run, they will collect a maximum of 2% of the actual wild spring Chinook return to North Fork Dam for the broodstock program.

During the month that this proposal was open for public comment, our action alert elicited very strong support from the angling community. In total, more than 700 individuals urged NOAA to approve this plan because otherwise, spring Chinook fishing seasons on this river would cease to exist and the population’s recovery time would increase substantially. More than 85% of those comments were from the Northwest Steelheaders community.

This type of engagement from the fishing community goes a long way, and we are hopeful that NOAA will approve ODFW’s request. Sign up today as a Columbia River Defender to stay updated as this proposal travels through the permitting process. If all goes according to plan, Clackamas Hatchery will have new broodstock starting next year!

Although the Clackamas Hatchery was largely unaffected by the recent wildfires, many of ODFW’s other hatcheries were severely damaged. The Rock Creek, Klamath, and Leaburg hatcheries will need substantial investments for new infrastructure before they can begin propagating hatchery fish again. To support this effort, Northwest Steelheaders launched the Oregon Hatchery Recovery Fund. Consider making a donation to this fund to provide funding for ODFW to begin rebuilding the hatcheries that support fishing opportunity.