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No early steelhead, no worry on Applegate

I keep checking your Friday fishing report wondering when the winter steelhead are going to make it all the way up the Applegate River. I noticed that no fish have yet to be caught at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife trap up near Applegate Dam. It’s almost March and still no steelhead. What gives? Is this a bad omen?

— Dave, email submission

Yeah, Dave, we have noticed the dearth of steelhead so far at the ODFW trap at the base of Applegate Dam. And we’re wondering what that means as well.

It turns out to be nothing statistically.

The last decade of ODFW data on fish-collection at the Applegate Dam trap shows that zero fish by this week in February actually is the rule and not the exception. In fact, in only three of the past 10 years have any winter steelhead made it all the way up by the end of the third week in February, records show.

The late February collections at the trap have more do to with water conditions than fish numbers. January and early February storms perk up the flows enough to get winter steelhead to move all the way up the Applegate.

For instance, last year there were zero fish at the trap by the end of the third week in February. The final return to the trap, however, ended up to be 3,435 fish — the third-highest in the past decade.

So don’t quit on your winter steelhead numbers, Dave.

If anything, worry about whether the weather will bring the fish before the March 31 end of the Applegate River’s winter steelhead fishing season.

In recent years, the bulk of the fish have moved into the trap after the angling deadline, which is set to protect spawning wild winter steelhead from getting trampled by anglers, who are banned from fishing from floating devices in the Applegate.

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.