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Rogue summer steelhead returns worst since 2009

I follow the summer steelhead counts pretty religiously for the Rogue River, and the numbers of returning fish seem awfully low. You reported last week that the total count to date at Cole Rivers Hatchery was a dismal 1,044 fish. But exactly how dismal is that? When has it been worse?

— Al, email submission

You’re quite right, Al. The summer steelhead returns to Cole Rivers Hatchery have been dismal. The 1,044 adult fish collected there are the fewest since the 2009-10 return, which at this time of the run was a paltry 14. That’s not a misprint. Just 14.

The 2010-11 return wasn’t much better than this year with 1,418 adult fish by this week, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife statistics.

But don’t worry that it means a collapse of the upper Rogue steelhead run, because hatchery data do not support that.

The best by this time of year in the past decade was 2013 with 3,088 fish. That was largely the returns from the steelhead spawned from those poor returns three and four years earlier.

Ocean conditions are regularly blamed — or credited — for hatchery summer steelhead survival rates on the Rogue, Al.

Let’s hope we see that turn around again soon.

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