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'60-65% of the run has come over the falls already': ODFW predicting good salmon season

A local fisherman with On the River Guides holding a salmon on his boat (Chad Wiest)
A local fisherman with On the River Guides holding a salmon on his boat (Chad Wiest)
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EUGENE, Ore. - It's finally summer in western Oregon, and if you're getting ready to cast your lines for salmon, you're in luck. This spring's late rain kept local reservoirs full, cool, and full of fish.

"We expect the pre-spawning mortality rate to be quite a bit lower than we saw last year," said Jeff Ziller, Upper Willamette District fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

That late season rain is coming in handy from the rivers to the coast.

"Up until recently, we basically had winter flows all the way until June this year, which is pretty unusual," Chad Wiest with On the Line Guide Service said.

This comes after multiple bad years for fishermen, and the heat causing major problems for the fish.

"We had what was called the warm water blob, " Wiest said. "3, 4, 5 years ago, those conditions were tough for our babies, and we're kind of dealing with those returns now. The Coho are smaller and their life cycle is shorter, so they rebound quicker. They're normally 2-3 year old fish. chinook are 3-5 year old fish, so the Coho rebound quicker and we're seeing that already but the Chinook are kind of lagging."

"We had a really low water year last year and water temperatures were in the mid-70s about right now in the main stem Willamette," Ziller said. "The virulence of the diseases gets much higher [in those warmer temperatures] and causes a higher mortality in the salmon."

ODFW said those fish are now on the rebound.

Ziller said, "We are seeing somewhere probably 60-65% of the run has come over the falls already with more to come."

If you're baiting your lines on the rivers, local guides say it's hard to predict where you can find the fish.

"It's kind of a mystery where those spring chinook go and where they feed," Wiest said.

And if you aren't having luck there, try the coast.

"It's pretty normal for people to catch a fish or catch their limit," Wiest said. "The returns expected are very high like last year and it should be an exceptional ocean salmon season this year."

For the first year in 30 years, Siuslaw and Coquille are closed for chinook fishing, and Coos River is under strict restrictions on how many fish you can catch. For more information, visit ODFW's Fishing Report.

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