I noticed that last week the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife captured 533 winter steelhead at its trap at the base of Applegate Dam. What are they doing with all those fish? Are some going into Applegate Lake?
— D.D., via email
The 533 winter steelhead trapped last week at the dam have different destinies at Cole Rivers Hatchery.
Some of those fish will be used as broodstock for this year's spawning and rearing of hatchery-bred winter steelhead that will be released into the Applegate River, says Dave Pease, the hatchery's manager.
As for the rest of them, releasing them in Applegate Lake for anglers like in past years is not an option because last year's returning fish were carrying a natural disease called IHN.
Applegate Lake is free of IHN, and the ODFW policy is to not release IHN-carrying fish in non-infected waters.
The excess female winter steelhead will be held in hatchery ponds until they are ready to spawn, Pease says. Then their eggs will be stripped out, and they'll be released back into the Applegate River. That egg removal is to ensure they don't spawn with wild fish once released.
That option doesn't work for males. Those fish will be used as food for rehabilitating animals or kept frozen for future use in ODFW's Stream Enrichment Program.
In that program, excess frozen fish carcasses are placed in Rogue River Basin tributaries, where they decompose and add nutrients important to aquatic insects and other parts of the food webs in creeks.
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