The Crooked River below Bowman Dam is flowing at 10 cubic feet per second, stranding fish in a few remaining deep pools.
Imagine going to the grocery store and 90% of the shelves are bare. That’s a rough equivalent of what’s going on in the Crooked River where the flows have dropped to 10 cfs in the past six days.
“Obviously with less flow you are going to have less food. You are going to have the same number of fish but dramatically less food,” said Yancy Lind, a concerned angler who writes the Central Oregon Informed Angler blog.
“If you have dramatically less water moving at fundamentally slower speeds, same number of fish, they are going to run out of oxygen.”
There is increased predation of fish that are easier to catch in the shallow water by birds and otters, as well as anglers who continue to fish when the ethics of doing so are in doubt.
Another factor working against Crooked River fish is the temperature of the water. As of Thursday, air temperature and water temperature were the same at 64 degrees.
“When the water is this thin or shallow, air temperature and water temperature will be similar,” Lind said. “If it gets up to 80 next week like its projected to be, then you are up in the lethal range for both native red band trout and mountain whitefish.”
Lind predicts a large decline in fish abundance in the Crooked River that could take years to recover. That’s assuming abundant precipitation for several consecutive years.
“What we have right now is a set of laws that are inflexible and allow this kind of things to happen without any consideration for recreation or fish and wildlife or any of the other things that drive our local economy,” Lind said.
The low flows will continue until November 1 when they are expected to rise to at least 50 cfs, which will be a minor improvement.