The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is pulling the plug on its decadeslong practice of stocking Hosmer Lake with Atlantic salmon.

The roughly 200-acre lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway has been stocked with Atlantic salmon since 1958 and is now the only lake left in the state regularly stocked with the fish.

ODFW Fisheries Biologist Brett Hodgson said the Atlantic salmon fishery has been in decline for about 20 years, when ODFW switched from stocking Hosmer Lake with an anadromous variety — a migratory fish that travels between saltwater and freshwater — in favor of a landlocked variety.

Although the anadromous salmon grew large and were good fighters, they also tended to go over the lava dam at the end of the lake during high water and died when they had nowhere else to go. The landlocked salmon have been content to stay in the lake, Hodgson said, but haven’t grown nearly as large as their predecessors.

Hodgson said due to concerns about introducing disease to the lake, ODFW has been stuck with the smaller, less feisty fish. Every fall, ODFW biologists have to go to Hosmer Lake and trap Atlantic salmon with a net to have new breeding fish at the Wizard Falls hatchery.

“We’ve now had that stock in our hatchery system for a couple of decades now without bringing in new genetic material, and they’re not as fit as they used to be,” he said. “They’re getting more domestic.”

Last fall, ODFW declined to collect eggs to raise new Atlantic salmon fingerlings at the hatchery.

The ODFW has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday in Bend to explain changes to the fish stocking program at Hosmer Lake. The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Health Careers Center at Central Oregon Community College.

Into the future, ODFW will focus on stocking Hosmer Lake with cutthroat trout and the “Cranebow,” a rainbow trout variant derived from redband trout found at Crane Prairie Reservoir. Hodgson said the Cranebow have been popular at other lakes around Central Oregon where they’ve been stocked in recent years.

“They’re good fighters, and they’re locally adapted to these waters, so they tend to grow to a large size,” he said.

Hosmer Lake will remain a catch-and-release, fly-fishing only lake despite the changes in ODFW’s stocking program.

Jerry Hubbard, past president of the Sunriver Anglers Club, said ODFW’s decision to halt stocking of Atlantic Salmon makes sense to him.

“We understand (ODFW’s) concerns, particularly their budget concerns,” Hubbard said. “They’re always under budget restraints and budget reductions. If that’s what they consider the best use of their resources for improving the fishing at Hosmer, personally, I support that.”

Hodgson said the remaining Atlantic salmon at Hosmer Lake will probably be gone within two to three years. Because the lake lacks gravel beds suitable for spawning, the salmon — as well as the cutthroat and Cranebow trout — are unable to reproduce at Hosmer Lake. Brook trout in the lake are successfully reproducing, Hodgson said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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