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Drought derails some trout stocking

The local lakes are awfully low from the drought this fall, and I’m concerned about fish stocking for next year. Is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife changing its fish-stocking plans because these lakes are low?

— John, email submission

ODFW is saying mostly yes, and a little no, to fall fish-stocking plans because certain reservoirs are very low.

Your question really only applies to Fish, Howard Prairie and Hyatt lakes, John. (Yes, grammar sticklers, we know they’re artificial reservoirs and not natural lakes, but the nomenclature gods say all reservoirs are lakes but not all lakes are reservoirs, and we’re sticking to it.)

Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes get stocked with larger-than-average fingerling rainbow trout because of the overabundance of bass in these two Talent Irrigation District reservoirs.

The trout stocked in the fall do better among these warmwater predators, which are too sluggish in the fall to beat up on the fingerling like they can during May releases.

Howard Prairie was listed Wednesday at 35 percent full, by far the best of the local Jackson County reservoirs drawn down for irrigation use each summer. That was enough water for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to stock it Tuesday and Wednesday this week with 150,000 fingerlings, which should be big enough to catch and keep next fall, according to Dan VanDyke, ODFW’s Rogue District fish biologist.

Fish Lake was listed at 6 percent of capacity, just enough for ODFW to stock two loads of fish there Tuesday, VanDyke says.

Cole Rivers Hatchery technicians released 5,000 excess hatchery spring chinook salmon that were about 7 inches long, along with 14,000 tiger trout at about 5 inches per pound, VanDyke says.

Chinook stocked in lakes are considered trout for the daily five-fish limit. Tiger trout are off limits for anglers to keep, because they’re there to prey on the tui chub that have infested the lake.

The story’s a little different at Hyatt Lake, which weighs in at just 4 percent of capacity.

VanDyke says ODFW won’t stock Hyatt this fall because of that low level, and the 20,000 fingerlings planned for Hyatt instead went to Howard Prairie.

VanDyke says he plans to stock some legal-sized rainbow trout there in the spring.

A combination of drought, regular TID draw-down and starting the irrigation season at just 40 percent full because of seismic retrofits at Hyatt Dam collectively conspired to drop Hyatt’s level so low this fall.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.