State fish biologists have tweaked their popular "retread steelhead" recycling program on the Rogue River to lengthen the stretch of water where anglers can catch and keep these excess summer steelhead.
A fresh batch of 338 summer steelhead are scheduled to be trucked this morning from Cole Rivers Fish Hatchery for release into the Rogue at Coyote Evans Wayside in the town of Rogue River.
Earlier releases of retreads this year were at the city of Gold Hill ramp. But biologists decided to truck this latest batch about 10 river miles farther downstream so anglers fishing between Gold Hill and Rogue River can get a shot at them.
In the past, retreads have been released no further downstream than TouVelle State Park to ensure they wouldn't get counted twice at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's video fish-counting station at Gold Ray Dam.
With the removal of the dam and the fish-counting station last year, that worry has disappeared, says David Haight, ODFW's assistant Rogue District fish biologist.
Recycling them at Gold Hill allowed the steelhead to be caught by anglers fishing in the former Gold Ray Dam area, but little good steelhead water exists between Gold Hill and the former dam site — unlike the popular fishing stretch between Gold Hill and Rogue River.
The change also provides fresh fish for a more varied group of anglers because the water between Gold Hill and Rogue River is open to bait fishing. Waters from the former Gold Ray Dam area up to the hatchery are currently open only to fishing with flies to protect spawning chinook salmon.
The retreads — considered in excess of the hatchery's brood-stock needs — have a hole punched in their left gill plate to denote their status. They can be kept as part of the daily limit of two adult fin-clipped hatchery steelhead. Adults are described as steelhead more than 16 inches long.
Haight says the only concern about recycling steelhead is that they don't end up straying onto wild summer steelhead spawning grounds in December and January.
"At this time of year, we should be able to put them in at Rogue River and they'll make it up to the hatchery before they spawn," Haight says.
Cole Rivers crews have recycled 1,148 summer steelhead this year — some of which have made the extra trip twice, according to David Pease, the hatchery's assistant manager. The overall return to the hatchery so far this run is 1,656 steelhead, Pease says.
Trout anglers have one last weekend to take advantage of the eight-fish limit at Diamond Lake.
The temporary order that increased the lake's trout limit from five to eight per day expires Thursday, four days before the end of the fishing season there. Beginning Oct. 28, the limit will revert to five per day through Halloween.
The higher limit was created by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via a temporary rule. The agency is limited to 150-day periods for these rules, ODFW spokeswoman Meghan Collins says.
Agency biologists initiated the rule May 1, front-loading the season because fishing at this eastern Douglas County lake is more popular in the spring than during the end of October.
The eight-trout limit will return next spring as a permanent rule, Collins says.
Regardless of the limit, trout must be at least 8 inches long, and only one can be longer than 20 inches per day. There is no season limit.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.