Bill Monroe: Navigating the heat and making life easier for our wild neighbors

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In early August 1990, Denny Hannah and I took Charlie White and his then incredible underwater television camera down the Umpqua River to film smallmouth bass.

It was hot in the summer, the water was favorable to the little mouth.

As we pushed Denny’s boat onto the shady shoreline for lunch near the outlet of a canyon spring, we spotted very mild shapes hitting its outlet.

Charlie sent up his camera and we were amazed to see a dozen summertime rainbow trout huddled together on the monitor, motionless. If they were agitated by the camera, they didn’t show it, desperately dependent on their version of air conditioning – hoping the spring water would deter death long enough to endure the cool autumn rains on their journey upstream .

We didn’t give it much thought at the time and none of our good friends Denny or Charlie survived to see the astonishing kill of a quarter of a million sockeye salmon in 2015 as they collided at a thermal wall over a superheated Columbia River.

Charlie and Denny’s passing also spared them the worrying overtones of today’s climate change as temperatures threaten habitat and test the resilience of salmon and rainbow trout in the face of dramatic changes.

We see it unfold before our eyes, however; and the past week has been a stark reminder that despite a temporary respite from a generously productive ocean, we are approaching the threshold of, well, environmental hell.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is on full alert, with a new reminder of steps we can all take to make life easier for our wild neighbors and their heat-treated homes.

Among the proposals:

• Walk lightly. Avoid wet areas and stream beds. Instead, wade in a river. Stay on the trails. Leave your dogs and, for that matter, your ATVs.

• If you fish, do it in the morning or evening. Quickly reel in and release the fish (imagine trying to run a long distance in this heat). Please don’t let your children build small gravel dams by the river. They trap and kill baby fish that no one can see.

• Do not camp near scarce water sources. Limit the noise. Do not feed anything other than yourself, your children and your dog.

• Change material for hot water species. They can support you much better than trout. UNLESS you want to hike to a high waterfall lake for a cool time (stay on the trail).

• Use those binoculars instead of trying to get close for a good photo with your smart phone. You’re not smart, the phone won’t do it, and the creature will use up valuable energy as it walks away.

• If you absolutely have to make a fire (where it’s legal)…well, you fill in the blanks on safety (remember 2020?).

On another note… also give the ocean crew a break. A dead killer whale was recently recovered off the Oregon coast with a relatively new recreational crab trap tangled in its tail

No, not one of the Puget Sound orcas, but still an orca that didn’t deserve that kind of treatment.

The pot buoy was unmarked, as required by Oregon and Washington. Oregon law states that he must have a first and last name and either an address, phone, ODFW ID, or vessel identification number.

Also, remember that knife digging at Clatsop County’s productive beaches is closed for the season until September 30.

Good news! We are surrounded by bright spots, even in the heat.

• The sea fishery for coho salmon has been extinguished at the mouth of the Columbia River and the ocean has been a friendly host. Same for Garibaldi, think about it. Eric Schindler of the Oceans Sampling Program for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said there was “a lot of wiggle room” in quotas for chinook off Columbia and coho all over the coast.

• Anglers on the Deschutes River will be pleased to hear that this year’s summer rainbow trout run has exceeded expectations at Bonneville Dam. Although they won’t reach enough numbers to allow the river to reopen rainbow trout fishing until August 15, fishing will almost certainly continue past September 15, the second date reference for weak upwellings. Oh, and the first walleye of the year was caught a few miles upriver from the mouth of Deschutes; first walleye catch this far upstream.

• Woo hoo for the spring run of Clackamas River chinook, hatchery and wild! By the middle of last week, 1,382 adult clipped springers had returned to the hatchery, along with 546 summer rainbow trout and more to come when the traps are cleared of chinook. Also, the wild spring chinook run is showing late and strong at the North Fork Dam PGE Pass Center. Some of these wild springers are passed on to the hatchery for pond broodstock. The wild run at the dam should be between 2,500 and 3,000.

— Bill Monroe for The Oregonian/OregonLive

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