Article: Fish need good habitat by Dave Heller

Posted: June 25, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Fly Fishing, Gear Fishing, News, Out of Area, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Tips & Advice
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Fish need good habitat. As described by T.E. Bigford in Fisheries magazine, August 2013, “Each fish occupies its preferred niche in the ecosystem. The environmental conditions of that space define the fish’s preference at each life stage….water temperature, depth, salinity, flow, bottom type, prey availability, annual cycles and much more.” To understand, protect and restore habitat can be a very complicated task. Basically, salmon and trout need cool, clean water, access to habitat, areas to spawn and holding and rearing habitat with good cover and a mix of water depths and velocities to meet the needs of each species and life stage.

Healthy Habitat 2

Rogue Rsteelhead_pair
Complex habitat provides a mix of conditions to support multiple fish species and life stages….

Over the last 150 years there has been a steady decline in river habitat. According to a report by the Heinz Center (2012), “In comparison to other sensitive ecosystems, including deserts, coastal marine environments and forests, freshwater environments are the most thereatened habitats in North America.” Much of this is from a range of development activities like road building, city building, logging, grazing, dam building, agriculture development including irrigation withdrawals and a host of other things. In the Columbia River basin alone, nearly half of the historic habitat, accessible to salmon and steelhead, has been blocked by dam building of all sorts. Of the remaining accessible habitat, much has been degraded and simplified and has a reduced ability to support healthy fish populations. Of course, other factors like harvest, also have had a role in affecting fish numbers as well. When you think about it, we are damn lucky that salmon, steelhead and resident trout are pretty tough characters and have been able to hang on despite the many abuses.


Hosed stream and rip
Erosion from roads and passage problems with many dams are major factors affecting habitat…..and Degraded habitat is “simplified” and often lacks a complexity of pools, riffles and cover. Loss of riparian vegetation reduces bank stability and
shade for the stream.

In the last two decades, there has been a concerted effort to better protect habitat, especially on federal lands, coupled with major investments to restore degraded watershed and habitat conditions. People of the Northwest love their rivers and fish and have come together to begin to make a difference in the protection and restoration of rivers and streams and the fish habitat that they provide. It is a huge task and requires partnerships, community involvement and education, good science, money and a lot of hard work. You may not have noticed, but it is likely that restoration work has been done on almost any river that you care to fish here in the Northwest. Often, when restoration is done well, most folks don’t even recognize that work has been done, especially after a few years since treatment.

Rogue R steelhead


Part 2 of a series coming soon…..

  1. Strick says:

    Most excellent work. A big thank you to Heller Sr. for his lfe long work to the environment.

  2. Derek Reed says:

    Im with Stricker as well. Big thank you to your pop for everything he has done and is doing to help protect and make our fisheries more productive and sustainable for future years to come. Thanks for sharing this Chris

  3. Thanks to all who support conservation, as they are building fisheries for my future childrens children. Let’s leave it better than we found it.

  4. Hellcat says:

    A very thoughtful comment, Lucas. Nick work.

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