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Pikeminnow have long been in the Rogue River

What's the deal with pikeminnows, which used to be called squawfish, in the Upper Rogue River now that the two big things keeping them from migrating up from the Grants Pass area — Savage Rapids and Gold Ray dams — are gone?

— Dave D., via email

The Umpqua pikeminnow has been found in the Rogue River basin for more than 30 years, and their presence or absence likely has more to do with the temperatures on the Upper Rogue than the absence of dams, Dave.

Cooler water upstream of Grants Pass probably keeps them from exploding in that area, says Dan VanDyke, the Rogue District fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Though they've been found upstream of both Savage Rapids and Gold Ray dams in the past, cool summer water releases from Lost Creek Lake temper their growth.

Pikeminnows were illegally introduced in the Wolf Creek drainage and were poisoned out of a pond there in 1979. Then the first live one was caught in the middle Rogue near Rand in 1980.

They thrive in the warm summer water of the middle Rogue, and they are pesky bait-stealers for those fishing for salmon in the middle Rogue at the end of August and early September.

They are native to the Umpqua River basin and have been known to traverse fish ladders on dams, VanDyke says. In the Columbia River, they are a bane to wild salmon production because large ones eat thousands of salmon and steelhead smolts on their way to the ocean.

ODFW biologists have heard reports of a few adults being caught upstream of Gold Ray Dam in the impoundment, but these have not been confirmed, and an ODFW survey crew reported pikeminnow in Little Butte Creek during a 2002 survey, VanDyke says.

In 2009, a pikeminnow was found in Larson Creek, which is a Bear Creek tributary.