Cole Rivers Hatchery technicians went from fearing they wouldn't have enough adult Rogue River spring chinook salmon to make their spawning goals to having enough excess fish to help feed some of Oregon's hungry.

Hatchery workers last week killed and donated 624 excess hatchery chinook to the Oregon Food Bank, a tradition that stretches back more than a decade here.

The Oregon Food Bank is a nonprofit organization at the hub of a network of 20 regional food banks serving Oregon and Clark County, Washington. ACCESS Inc. is the local agency in Medford.

Last week hatchery workers turned over the excess chinook to Bellingham-based American Canadian Fisheries.

American Canadian processes excess hatchery salmon and supplies the food bank with frozen, 4-ounce fillets that are individually vacuum-sealed for distribution.

The seafood company keeps the carcasses and eggs for sale and processing in its seafood business.

Two months ago, returns to the hatchery collection pond were so poor that workers feared they would fail to get the 1,100 females and 550 males needed to breed the 1.7 million smolts slated for release next year.

The hatchery failed to make its full brood last year because of low returns, and two straight years of undershooting releases would double the dread.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing in the popular Hatchery Hole at the collection pond to help get more spring chinook into the hatchery.

While the run turned out to be light this year, high spring flows helped make the run into the upper Rogue somewhat late.

As of Aug. 23, hatchery workers had collected 3,910 spring chinook. In addition to getting enough salmon for spawning needs and the food bank, hatchery workers recycled 656 spring chinook back into the Rogue at the Denman Wildlife Area to give anglers another shot at catching them in the season that ended Thursday.

Flies-only season for upper Rogue

Today marks the traditional change to flies-only fishing for summer steelhead in the upper Rogue River, setting in motion a series of rule changes meant to improve the catch-and-release survival of wild steelhead and curb accidental salmon catches along a 32-mile stretch of the upper Rogue.

Beginning today, fishing will be relegated to flies only from the Hatchery Hole along the Cole Rivers Hatchery dike to Fishers Ferry boat ramp just downstream from the old Gold Ray Dam site.

The rule allows traditional fly-fishing with up to three flies, as well as using spinning rods with bobbers or other floats, provided no other attachments such as swivels or weights are used.

Today is also the first day chinook salmon fishing is closed upstream of Fishers Ferry, but it remains open downstream of the boat ramp for the popular fall chinook season in the middle and lower Rogue reaches.

Open seasons

Four popular upland game-bird seasons are slated to open today for hunters in Western Oregon.

Blue and ruffed grouse hunting opens statewide, while California and mountain quail hunting opens today in Western Oregon.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.