Battle Brewing Over McKenzie R. Stockers

A story we did last April on the McKenzie River spoke to the crazy numbers of trout you can catch on this stream just southeast of the Eugene-Springfield area.

“It’s absolutely something you need to witness,” guide Bret Stuart told our Larry Ellis. “It’s anywhere from 16- to 20-inch trout and up to 50 a day. We’re talking big redsides and big cutthroats. These are all caught swinging a fly. You can be a complete idiot with a fly rod and catch them too.”

Many of those fish are products of the nearby Leaburg Hatchery, “the biggest single trout program on the West Coast,” manager Tim Wright told Ellis.

A group of anglers is now saying it’s time to rethink the huge releases of stockers which, they say, are harming wild redside rainbows (hatchery trout are fin-clipped, just like salmon or steelhead).

The McKenzie River Native Trout Coalition packed a recent meeting in Springfield.

They dispute “that the current managment of the river represents best practices and that it maximizes benefit.Our vision for the river is that the Mckenize be managed primarily if not exclusively for the benefit of native fish and fisheries. In our view, proper managment will allow for a slot limit on native trout.”

According to an Oregon fly fishing blog, the McKenzie River Guides Association “wants the McKenzie River be stuffed to the bursting point with hatchery fish.”

Stuck in the middle is ODFW.

“We do know that there’s an impact of the hatchery fish on the wild trout population. There’s an impact of the anglers on the wild trout population,” fisheries biologist Jeff Ziller tells KEZI.

UPDATE FEB. 12: This morning, Oregon Public Broadcasting has done a story on the issue. Reporter Angela Kellner talks to Ziller who explains there will be a 15 percent reduction in hatchery stocking and 5 miles of river added for wild fish management only.

Ziller says the state is compiling data from last year’s survey of McKenzie River anglers and using a 2006 statewide survey to better understand fishing preferences.

What they need next, Ziller says, is a survey of the people who aren’t fishing the McKenzie, but would like to.

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