Due to extreme drought and the end of irrigation season, water levels in the Crooked River near Prineville are falling fast.
Reductions of flows to less than 10% of what they are today will continue through the weekend.
There’s already a lot of exposed riverbed on the Crooked River and there will be a lot more by Monday when flows are forecast to drop to 10 cubic feet per second.
The river was flowing at 160 cfs Thursday afternoon. The drop will have big impacts on the river environment.
“In the past they used to drop to 10 cfs almost routinely and it’s tough on the fish when it gets down low,” said Scott Hudson from Bend.
He was fishing the river below Bowman Dam Thursday and catching a few.
“You don’t get the size of the fish. You get lots of fish but you don’t get the size. The bigger fish are going to suffer.”
Ochoco Irrigation District is ramping down the flows from Prineville Reservoir over a period of days.
The goal of the gradual flow reductions is to avoid stranding fish and other aquatic wildlife. But some critters, such as freshwater snails, may not be able to move fast enough.
“This is where I normally come for a quick getaway to cast a fly,” said Mike Green, Bend. “I might go to the upper Deschutes or to the Fall River. Those are two options near Bend, and the lakes are also an option.”
One local fly shop has stopped guiding fishing trips on the Crooked to give the fish a fighting chance at surviving in the rapidly shrinking river.
“I don’t think we can fish it at 10 cfs. I wouldn’t anyway,” Hudson said. “You can catch fish but it’s tough on the fish. They’ll be stressed. I’ll likely go somewhere else.”
We checked with local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife offices. They said they are petitioning the state to issue a fishing closure when the flows drop to 10 cfs.
Anglers need to watch for that official announcement which could happen as soon as next week.