BAKER CITY — Due to low water levels, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has canceled all size limits and daily limits for anglers at Malheur Reservoir south of Baker City through Dec. 31.
The reservoir has very limited water due to low winter and spring precipitation and exceptionally warm temperatures. ODFW staff have observed fish kills during previous winters when such conditions exist. Based on the developing La Nina and associated projections for a cooler winter, ODFW believes there is a high likelihood that conditions in the reservoir will become lethal for fish this winter.
“I’m not one to take lightly the liberalization of limits and gear restrictions but given the current water levels and past experience we expect fish will die during the winter due to low oxygen levels,” said Dave Banks, ODFW’s district fish biologist. “My goal with the removal of limits and gear restrictions is to provide opportunities for anglers to use these fish.”
ODFW plans to restock the reservoir next spring to begin rebuilding the fishery. Malheur Reservoir is a productive waterbody that will grow fingerling rainbow trout, three to four inches long, stocked in the spring into eight- to11-inch fish by the fall. Those same fish will be 14 to 16 inches by their second fall in the reservoir.
Low water levels during the fall and ice in winter creates a low oxygen level situation that could be lethal for fish. When the reservoir surface freezes, it will trap any remaining oxygen under the ice.
“This would give the fish a very low oxygen supply to persist throughout the winter and normally results in fish dying under the ice,” Banks said.
ODFW encourages anglers to keep any fish that they catch because this will improve the likelihood of survival of fish that remain in the reservoir through the winter.