Salmon Come Back to the Powderby Jayson Jacoby
Baker City Herald, May 28, 2008
Anglers who expect to hook puny rainbow trout in the Powder River this summer would do well to keep a firm grip on their fishing poles.
Something larger will lurk in the Powder's murky water.
Salmon, to be specific.
For just the third year since the early 1930s - the other years were 2004 and 2007 - chinook salmon, some possibly topping 15 pounds, will swim in the upper Powder.
And starting Saturday, you can try to catch one.
Or more than one - the daily bag limit is two salmon, and the season continues through Sept. 1.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife intends to release about 300 spring chinook in the Powder River this week, said Tim Bailey, a fish biologist at the agency's Northeast Region office in La Grande.
Trucks will dump salmon in the river in Baker City, and just below Mason Dam.
The salmon were trapped earlier this spring below Hells Canyon Dam.
The Powder's share of salmon will include adults, which average eight to 12 pounds, as well as "jacks," young male salmon that didn't stay as long in the Pacific Ocean and weigh around four pounds.
Anglers will need an Oregon fishing license and a salmon tag, Bailey said.
Adult salmon must be tagged but jacks do not, he said.
However, both adults and jacks count toward the daily limit of two salmon.
As in 2004 and 2007, ODFW decided to dump salmon into the Powder because the trap below Hells Canyon Dam caught more fish than Oregon and Idaho hatcheries needed for this year's chinook crop.
The 2004 program, in which workers released 278 adult salmon in the river - 51 in Baker City, 227 just below the dam - marked the first appearance of chinook in the upper Powder since Thief Valley Dam, which has no fish ladders, was built near North Powder in 1932.
ODFW officials estimated that anglers caught about 80 to 90 salmon in 2004.
There were no surplus chinook available in 2005 or 2006.
Last year ODFW released about 200 jack salmon in the Powder, all of which went into the river below Mason Dam, Bailey said.
The river was running too low through Baker City, and the water was too warm to suit salmon last year, he said.
This year, however, the river is running high and cold with snowmelt, and Bailey expects workers will unload salmon, probably starting Thursday, both in Baker City and below Mason Dam.
Although ODFW is not trying to restart the annual salmon runs that once crowded Baker County streams with wriggling fish - Thief Valley, Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams create a concrete gantlet that salmon can't surmount - Bailey said it's quite possible that baby salmon were born in the Powder back in 2004.
He said anglers found nests of salmon eggs in a few places.
If those eggs hatched - the fledgling fish are known as "fry" - some might have swum downstream, Bailey said.
"Who knows what their fate was," he said.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs