December 12, 2019

A letter from President Tom VanderPlaat

In many ways, 2019 was a year of transition for the Northwest Steelheaders. We hired a new Executive Director, Chris Hager, a new Operations Manager, Alix Soliman, and we brought aboard a new Ameri-Corps Education and Outreach Coordinator, Allena Vestal. I and our board of directors are extremely excited to have each of them on our staff. Individually, each brings energy, enthusiasm, and experience to our organization. Collectively, they represent the “Next Generation” of Steelheaders that is vital to our organization’s growth, effectiveness, and continued tenacity. While we propel forward, it is important to recognize an enduring aspect of Northwest Steelheaders: the commitment of our people. As an organization, we’ve been working for “a place to fish, and fish to catch” for almost 60 years.
December 23, 2019

A letter from Executive Director Chris Hager

This morning, as I pulled on my waders to fish for a couple of hours before heading into the office, I was shocked by the realization that December is nearly over. Reports of winter steelhead hooked on the Clackamas have been few and far between. It seems returns are occurring later than ever. I can’t help but recall stories told of frosty early mornings on the bank where fish were caught before Thanksgiving dinner. I take stock, remind myself that “it only takes one bite,” and push on. As anglers, we push on, driven by a passion that lures us to the next hole or riffle, regardless of run counts or projections. If there are fish in the river, we fish. No matter what. Rain or shine we’re there, one cast at a time. It's that same passion that drives me to preserve these special places, to ensure that the next generation has a place to fish and fish to catch.
May 28, 2020

Tempering Heat Pollution in the Lower Snake River

Recently, there has been a lot of press about Oregon and Washington governors using their authority under the Clean Water Act to require dam operators to reduce the heat they are introducing into the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Heat pollution causes substantial stress and even death for endangered salmon and steelhead. This is an important development in the ongoing effort to protect salmon and steelhead in these rivers… but what does it mean to reduce “heat pollution” and how does that protect salmon, steelhead and our ability to fish? Heat is explicitly identified as a pollutant under the Clean Water Act, making entities that heat waterways responsible for mitigating the temperature changes they cause. As anglers, we know that temperature changes have huge impacts on fish. Here in Oregon, our water quality standards have set a water temperature threshold of 68 degrees Fahrenheit for salmon and steelhead streams—the warmest water salmon and steelhead can survive in.
June 17, 2020

Northwest Steelheaders Stands in Solidarity

We recognize that ending racial discrimination in the U.S. begins with having discussions about it within our communities. Sixty years ago, our organization was built on the foundation of an active angling community, and we have thrived by fostering this community since. All of our programs are made possible by the strength of our community, by the thousands of hours our members volunteer each year. Through awareness, empathy, and compassion, we have the power to direct this strength toward making our community more inclusive and representative.
June 24, 2020

Renewable Energy and Barging Industries Have Changed

The lower Snake River dams were built based on two predominant assumptions: (1) dams are the most viable form of producing renewable energy and (2) dams facilitate barge transport, which is the best way to ship goods to market. We must determine whether these assumptions are still true today in order to promote a dialogue about crafting solutions to replace the lower Snake River dams.
June 30, 2020

Migration Through the Eyes of a Salmon

When I turned one year old, my parr marks began to disappear, alerting me to the fact that my first great journey would soon begin. I knew it was time to go to the ocean. Under natural conditions, it would be an arduous journey: over 450 miles of river fraught with predators, rapids, strong currents, and changing salinity that culminates in a rapid biological adaptation to the ocean. Unfortunately, man-made obstacles such as agricultural runoff, heat pollution, stagnant water and dams further complicated my voyage.
July 7, 2020

Harnessing the Power of Community for the Common Good

As president of the Columbia River Chapter for 6 years, my members have never ceased to amaze me. Every event, community project, fish along—you name it—starts with an idea from one chapter member. From there, other members start adding their two cents and a tangible plan starts to form. A few phone calls are made to friends, family, and acquaintances and suddenly there’s a network made up of skilled individuals geared towards achieving one goal. All of the pieces fall into place and volunteers show up excited and ready to help accomplish the project.