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Not enough steelhead for retreads this year

I will fewer visitors for Thanksgiving this year, but we still plan on following our best traditions for Black Friday. My wife plans to do some shopping, and I take my sons fishing for summer steelhead on the Rogue River. I know most years the state recycles some hatchery summer steelhead back downriver for that weekend, and when they do fishing’s great right around where they release them. Will the state be doing that this year?

— Al, email submission

Well, Al, if your Black Friday tradition is centered on whether excess Rogue River summer steelhead are recycled back into the river, you better consider Friday more about fishing than catching.

The run to the Rogue’s Cole Rivers Hatchery this fall has been slow for summer steelhead, and the 132 excess steelhead on hand this week were not enough to do a downstream release, hatchery Manager Dave Pease says.

“That’s not really enough to make a rerun,” Pease says.

Historically, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tries to rerun steelhead from the hatchery to the Denman Wildlife Area and the TouVelle State Recreation Area boat ramp the day before Thanksgiving.

They’re called “retread steelhead,” and you’re right, Al, that the retreads can generate some great catch rates around those release areas.

The bulk of the excess fish now on hand also came in this past week. History shows that retreads released right after they reach the hatchery are more apt to return again and less apt to get caught.

“If we hold onto them for a few weeks they get good and hungry, so they bite better,“ Pease says.

But that wasn’t an option this year.

However, the upper Rogue remains open to steelhead fishing. Upstream of the Upper Rogue Regional Park ramp at Shady Cove, anglers can use bait as well as flies and lures; downstream of the ramp is open only for artificial flies and lures, but not bait. Fake bait clusters, however, are legal.

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