Hungry residents of Shady Cove and Prospect will get some extra protein with fins attached next week thanks to the bounty of the upper Rogue River.

Hungry residents of Shady Cove and Prospect will get some extra protein with fins attached next week thanks to the bounty of the upper Rogue River.

About 200 excess Rogue River summer steelhead collected this winter at Cole Rivers Hatchery will be killed and donated today to community groups that operate food pantries in the two upper Rogue communities.

The fish are considered in excess of the captured steelhead that will be needed to spawn the next generation of hatchery summer steelhead starting next week.

"It's nothing huge, but it's something," said David Pease, the hatchery's assistant manager. "It's certainly better than putting them in a landfill."

The fish, ranging from 1 pound to more than 5 pounds, will be pulled from holding ponds, killed and loaded in trucks by community-center volunteers, Pease said.

The Catfish Cove Club and Upper Rogue Community Center will process the fish and add them to food boxes offered to needy residents next week, said Ginny Rigel, who helps run the food pantry at the Shady Cove center.

The fish will be a welcome addition at the pantries, which expect extra visitors next week because it's the last week of a five-week month, leaving many needy residents without welfare checks or Oregon Trail food credits, Rigel said.

"It comes at a good time for us," said Rigel, whose Shady Cove pantry is open on Thursdays. "Besides, we don't get a lot of meat like this. Whether you like fish or not, it's meat. It's protein."

The donation marks the latest shift in how hatchery workers mete out excess fish since a disease outbreak at the hatchery in 2005.

In the past, excess summer steelhead were released in Emigrant and Applegate lakes for anglers to catch. All that changed after the naturally occurring IHN disease was discovered at Cole Rivers, likely brought in by infected adult salmon and steelhead. To avoid spreading IHN to fish in those IHN-free lakes, the stocking program was abandoned.

Unlike salmon, which are classified as a food fish and can be sold, steelhead are classified in Oregon as a sport fish and cannot be sold. They can be given away or killed and buried at a landfill.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.