Steelhead Regulations on the Deschutes

What does this mean? It means the entire Deschutes will be closed to steelhead fishing in July 1 through August 15th, 2022. (please keep reading, this is not a death sentence)

Going forward Deschutes Steelhead seasons will be open or closed in July based on prior year escapement over Sherars Falls. This number is driven by fish caught and counted in the Sherars trap. The number is 625 wild steelhead. Over 625 wild fish and the Deschutes will be open for steelhead fishing in July, under 625 wild fish, steelhead fishing will be closed July though August 15th. Perspective, only twice, 1994/95 and ‘2021/22 has this escapement number not been exceeded.

Is it closed for the whole year? Maybe. If wild steelhead counts over Bonneville dam reach 9,900 fish between July 1 and July 31, steelhead fishing will be allowed starting August 15th. If 9,900 wild fish do not pass Bonneville in July the river will remain closed to steelhead fishing.

Is 9,900 a reasonable number for July? Yes, wild steelhead passage over Bonneville Dam is almost always over 9,900. Only three times in the last thirty years has this number not been met, 1994, 2017 (9,527), 2021 (6,736). Odds are we are open August 15th.

Can the river open for steelhead prior to 8/15? Yes, but wild fish passage over Bonneville will need to be 18,700. This benchmark has been met 16 times since 1994. July wild fish counts have not exceeded 18,000 fish since 2015 (33,025).

What if the July numbers are not reached? There is a second benchmark for wild fish passage over Bonneville, July 1 through August 31, that number is 23,100. This benchmark was missed in 1995 and last year 2021. 

Example, 2017, 1,196 wild fish passed through the Sherars trap, but we missed 9,900 for July. Under todays parameters the river would be open in July and would close on August 15th. In 2017 fish counts July 1 through August 31 were 24,877 (benchmark is 23,100), this would trigger the river to reopen August 15 through the close. Escapement over Sherars was met that year (1,487), the river would remain open in July 2018. 

Deschutes Trout Fishing

The Deschutes is and will hopefully always be open to trout fishing. Over the last sixteen years I’ve put a lot of time into trout fishing the lowest 25 miles of the Deschutes. I swing flies for trout with a trout spey, euro nymph and of course fish dry flies. The “lowest” Deschutes is a world class trout fishery but it’s relatively empty at all times except steelhead season.

In 2021 I spent a lot more time trout fishing due to closures and it was great, no one around and lots of big hungry trout. I started my 2022 trout season yesterday and despite the unseasonably wintery weather we caught a bunch of trout.

If you have steelhead dates with me this summer in July or early August I hope you’ll consider trout fishing with me instead.  If you’d like to fish with me this summer I anticipate some openings, I hope not but there will be some cancellations. 

Trout Spey, we’ll be fishing 12’ four weight trout spey rods with small skagit heads and sculpin patterns (muddlers and bunny leach patterns). On real windy days we’ll need to move up a couple rod sizes. Although we are trout fishing there will be steelhead in the river and we’ll probably hook a few. 

Curious about Euro Nymphing? I’m your guy and the lower Deschutes is a great place to learn how to do it. On days when the wind is up, euro type set ups under a strike indicator work great, heck they work god al the time. There will be dry fly fishing opportunities as well including dry dropper.

More on trout fishing with me click here

I should also mention I will be guiding on the Klickitat River again this season. When conditions permit there will be steelhead opportunities this summer, these will be last minute openings based on conditions. The Klickitat opens June 1.

The John Day River – we won’t know much until September 1st.

Please feel free to call me anytime if you have any questions or concerns about the upcoming 2022 trout and perspective steelhead seasons on the lower Deschutes. I will do my best to break things down for everyone so they know what to expect going forward.

Tight lines,

Sam Sickles

(541) 400-0855

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