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Fishermen share concerns about trout in McKenzie River

Some fishermen said the changes could hurt recreational fishing.

Posted: Apr 18, 2018 6:13 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2018 6:22 PM

LEABURG, Ore. -- Some fishermen are worried they won't be able to find enough trout in certain areas on the McKenzie River after changes were made to who stocks it with hatchery trout.

Steve Mealey, president of the McKenzie River Guides Association, said they have been the ones releasing hatchery trout into the McKenzie River for about 70 years, working as volunteers with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

However, he said he found out Tuesday, they weren't going to be doing it this year. Instead, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who controls the hatchery, contracted the job to a new company.

Rick Hargrave with the Corps of Engineers said they have had an agreement with ODFW for years, but decided to make it a contract this year, hoping to make the process more clear. He said ODFW did bid on the contract, but Desert Springs Trout Farm was awarded it.

"It should be a bidding process, and that's what it was, and we came out on top," Thomas MacDonald, the owner of Desert Springs Trout Farm, said.

Macdonald said the contract is worth $1.3 million a year, for four years.

Mealey said the new contract is problematic because instead of evenly distributing the fish along a 10-mile stretch of river, the fish are just being put by the Leaburg, Deerhorn, and Taylor Landings.

Mealey said they will stay concentrated in those areas because they won't travel far down the river themselves.

"That means that all the fish are going to be here at these three landings," Mealey said. "(Fishermen) will be elbow to elbow with other people, sanitation problems, garbage problems, poaching problems and there are six miles of river with no fish."

He said this could hurt recreational fishing in the area.

Hargrave said they now realize the problem in the contract and are working with ODFW and the McKenzie River Guides to fix it.

"I'm confident we will get it fixed so that next time a stocking occurs it can go back to the way it was previously," Hargrave said.

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