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’Hatchery Hole’ closed to salmon angling

A dearth of returning Rogue River spring chinook salmon to Cole Rivers Hatchery has triggered the closure of a popular fishing spot in front of the hatchery collection pond to help meet future brood-stock needs there.

For the second consecutive spring, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed all angling beginning Saturday in the so-called “Hatchery Hole,” the most upstream spot for bank anglers to catch spring chinook before they reach the facility.

Similar to 2020, the emergency closure is designed to help the hatchery collect more spring chinook for spawning, in a year when potential returns are forecast to fall short of what’s needed to produce the 1.6 million spring chinook smolts to be released from the hatchery in 2022 and early 2023, according to ODFW.

The closure begins Saturday and runs through July 31, which is the end of the typical spring chinook fishing season at the Hatchery Hole.

The hole is a favorite among bank anglers because of the relatively high density of hatchery fish, which can be kept as part of anglers’ limit of two hatchery-bred fish.

The closure covers 1,200 feet below the hatchery fish ladder, the last stop in the 157 miles salmon swim from the ocean to the hatchery.

The water in front of fish hatcheries is traditionally closed to angling to ensure hatcheries get enough brood stock for spawning needs. In the early 2000s, the Hatchery Hole was opened to angling when there was a glut of returning hatchery fish.

Since then, the hatchery has experienced a downturn in adult spring chinook returns, triggering closures in 2017 and last year.

Hatchery Manager David Pease said the facility needs 1,200 females and 600 males to spawn enough eggs needed for the annual smolt release.

The goal is to produce 2.35 million eggs to meet annual production needs.

This year’s return to the hatchery is expected to be similar to last year, when the hatchery collected 761 adult females and 602 adult males for spawning, hatchery records show.

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