A few details about the Hood’s winter Steelhead

The latest installment of Buzz Ramsey’s Outdoor News (see column below) casts into the Northwest fishing guru’s ocean of fishing knowledge and pulls up yet another of his many meticulous strategies to increase chances of success with rod and reel.

In this case he discusses drifting techniques for winter steelhead, which is a season and species anglers get pretty excited about around here. Although rivers have seen ups and downs in numbers over the years, winter steelhead – both hatchery and wild – return in strong numbers to local rivers like the Hood, White Salmon and Klickitat (to name a few) and are among the most fun and feisty freshwater fish to pursue.

Prior to Powerdale Dam’s removal in 2010, steelhead angling was restricted in the Hood River to about four miles of water between the dam and the confluence with the Columbia, while fish biologists kept a close watch and control on what fish passed to the rest of the watershed upstream.

Since the dam was removed, however, fish have had a free run of the river, and angling has been opened in the mainstem from the Columbia upstream to the area near Punchbowl Falls in Dee. For many who call the area home and put in enough time casting flies, drifting egg clusters, twitching jigs and unsnagging spinners along the banks of the local rivers, winter steelhead season is a reward for the patience and persistence required to feel successful in a sport like fishing.

The Hood River run of winter steelhead typically occurs in late winter, as explained by the Oregon Depratment of Fish and Wildlife in a recent report.

“As one of the easternmost populations of winter steelhead in the Columbia Basin, the Hood River run is later than most winter run populations,” the report explains “Unlike most winter steelhead streams, the Hood River provides steelhead fishing opportunities for summer and winter run steelhead during the winter months. Angler opportunity peaks, however, when the winter run steelhead begin returning in late winter.”

Winter steelhead typically start appearing in the Hood in late December, but the run doesn’t peak until April, when the combination of wild and hatchery fish released into the river each year make their way back to their home waters. Although there are peaks and valleys in the action, however, the Hood River offers opportunities to catch steelhead all year.

“The hatchery population is partially comprised from wild broodstock, so hatchery and wild fish return at nearly the same time,” the report notes. “While the winter run may be late in the Hood, anglers should not discount the opportunity to fish early in the season for early returning winter run fish, while also fishing for holdover summer run fish, or late into the winter run season, for the early returning summer run fish.”

Because of its proximity to a large mountain, the Hood River is of a relatively high gradient and can change flow rapidly. For best results, experienced anglers watch weather conditions and water levels to pick times when flow and turbidity are at their most opportune.

“In general, anglers will find best fishing on dropping flows following high water events,” the report reads. “The Hood is typically higher gradient, which tends to reduce the number of pools. Anglers should not overlook riffles with boulders, or pocket type water, where steelhead may be holding … Successful anglers on the Hood River traditionally drift fish with bait or artificials; however, anglers casting spinners or even flies will also catch fish.”

After the removal of Powerdale Dam, public access to the once-popular stretch of river just below the dam was restricted by adjacent property owners. The lowest section of river can still be accessed from the former powerhouse road off of Highway 35, which is now owned by Hood River County in partnership with Columbia Land Trust. Upstream of there, public access to the river is limited to just a couple sites — chiefly Tucker Bridge, Tucker Park and Punchbowl Falls.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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