Fish Kill in Channel of the Deschutes River

October 21st, 2013 | Posted by Ironwood Pacific in Boating & Fishing News

FishSeveral news organizations reported over the weekend the discovery of a fish kill in a channel of the Deschutes River in Oregon. But managers of the water are uncertain why it happened this year.

For the last few days, the water level has been dropping on the Central Oregon river. Oregon Water Resources Department typically drops outflows of the Wickiup Reservoir at the end of the irrigation season. This year, the outcome resulted in the fish kill. Crews estimate as many as 3,000 fish may be dead in the shallow channel located next to the Deschutes River Trail.

But those managing the waterway say the scheduled drop in water turned out differently than it had in previous years. Both KTVZ in Bend, Oregon Public Broadcasting and the local newspaper, the Bend Bulletin, reported on the kill. A lively discussion also got started on

Why Fish Kills Occur

Both natural and man-made factors can contribute to a fish kill. For instance, spawning season involves a natural cycle of death, which can be significant in number.  Also, reduced oxygen at certain times of the year, such as during freezing temperatures or when oxygen-poor bottom waters mix with the upper layers in coastal ponds, can produce a natural kill. But human activities, such as nutrients originating from agricultural lands or manure and septic handling systems, have also become a troublesome trend.

ODFW Tracks Fish Kills

In Oregon, the Department of Fish and Wildlife usually has jurisdiction to track fish kills and pursue remedies. So far, no report has been filed online about this particular kill, though reports about previous ones in the state can be found through the ODFW website. The ODFW also posts information about mitigating problems with algae and plants, that can destroy a pond’s ecosystem and cause fish to die.

Questions? Who to Call

Several resources are available to research and explain fish health and water resource management. ODFW suggests these:

Natural Resources Conservation Service — regional offices through out Oregon that can help with pond design questions.

Oregon State Extension Service — offices in every Oregon county.

Oregon Soil and Water Conservation District — located in almost every Oregon county.

ODFW District Fisheries biologist (pdf) — for specific questions about fish that may be allowed in certain areas.


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