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Human Error, Infrastructure Determined to be Causes of Cole Rivers Hatchery Fish Loss

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Newsroom

Department of Fish and Wildlife

SHADY COVE, Ore – ODFW recently concluded an investigation into a fish kill at Cole Rivers Hatchery.

The incident led to the loss of steelhead that contribute to fisheries in the Rogue and Coos Rivers. The loss was caused by human error at ODFW and compounded by infrastructure issues making it difficult to isolate risk.

Rogue summer steelhead. The 2024 “half-pounder” fishery and the 2025 adult fishery will be affected because all sac fry for Rogue summer steelhead were lost.

Some of the lost fishing opportunities in the Rogue will be abated because 82,000 summer steelhead smolts were held back in 2022 and will be released in April 2024. A portion of these fish will return after a short time in the ocean as “half-pounders” and will contribute to the 2024 fishery.

Catch-and-release for wild summer steelhead half-pounders and adults will continue. Hatchery adults returning from other release years will also provide some opportunities in 2025.

Coos winter steelhead.  A significant portion of the Coos winter steelhead fry on hand was lost and the 2025-2026 fisheries will be affected. We expect to release about half of the production goal (62,500 smolts) in April 2024. 

Most of these hatchery steelhead will return in the winter of 2025-2026, depending on ocean survival. A small number of hatchery steelhead from the previous brood year could contribute to that fishery.  Anglers can continue to catch and release wild adult steelhead.

Operational response. ODFW is reviewing protocols to prevent future operational errors. ODFW and federal partners are also working closely to address infrastructure issues stressing production capabilities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers directed additional resources toward the hatchery and Oregon’s congressional delegation, led by Senators Merkley and Wyden have secured funding to fix the power supply and begin work on the water supply.



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