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Sandy winter steelhead run best in years

Jack Glass grew up fishing on the Sandy River. His father ran fishing tours in the 1960s and ‘70s, and in 1983, he started to do the same. Ten years ago, Jack’s son Brandon joined in and formed Team Hook-up, a fishing guide service on the Sandy River.

With the winter steelhead run in full force, Jack Glass said they’re out on the river almost every day with anglers of all skill levels. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: JACK GLASS - Jack Glass and his son Brandon Glass operate Team Hook-up, a fishing guide company on the Sandy River. This season has already been stellar, including this catch in early January.

“Fortunately, for the Sandy, we’re having an outstanding winter steelhead season this year,” he said. “Last year was actually very good, but I think this year is a little better. We’re right in there with one of the best returns.”

Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, agreed. This winter, there’s between 3,000 and 4,000 hatchery steelhead expected to return to the Sandy River, combined with about 3,000 wild winter steelhead, meaning there will be about 6,000 fish traveling in the river between now and April. This is compared to the 160,000 winter steelhead smolts that are released from the hatchery, to return in a future season.

“It’s good to see. We’re happy to see the number of fish we’re seeing, wild and hatchery,” Alsbury said. “People can have a very good chance when they get out to the Sandy of catching steelhead.”

Angler-hopefuls only need a fishing license and tag, and can keep up to three hatchery steelhead a day. Hatchery steelhead are distinct from wild steelhead, in that the adipose fin has been clipped before being released as a juvenile. Wild fish, which have the fin intact, have to be released back into the river.

“We’ve done it now since salmon and steelhead were listed (as endangered species) in 1998,” Alsbury said. “We’ve clipped those fins off the fish, so it’s really well-known now.”

On any given weekend, 200 anglers can be found on the Sandy River, and more than 100 during the week. Alsbury hopes what is the best run in years encourages more fishing, and more steelhead on the dinner table.

“It’s been very good the last couple of years,” he said. “I highly encourage folks if they haven’t tried in a while to try now, because it’s a very good year.”

Alsbury added ODFW also wants to make sure that as many of the hatchery fish are caught as possible.

“It’s a big concern. We don’t want those fish out in the wild to spawn or mate with wild fish,” he said.

Glass said so far this year, he’s already noticed a switch from years prior. Instead of catching three wild fish for every two hatchery, he’s seeing three hatchery fish for every two wild fish.

“Having some success with catching does help influence people’s desire to enjoy the resource,” Glass said. “If you go out there every day and don’t catch anything, it’s not as exciting. It’s beautiful, but to be able to catch one is pretty exciting.”

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