Photo: Open Rivers Fund
Our work focuses on the health of fishes that are native to the Rogue River Basin. Native species have been part of the ecosystem for millenia and are well-adapted to local conditions where they each play an important role. Some aquatic species become food for predatory animals, some filter microorganisms out of the water, and some provide “fertilizer” to plants growing both in and near waterways.
The Rogue River watershed is also home to a number of introduced species coming from places as far away as Asia. These non-native species are plentiful and often disruptive to local ecosystems by outcompeting native species for space and food. We work to restore habitat and provide a healthy watershed to give native species their best chance to thrive.
The native species we focus on in the Rogue River watershed include:
Coho Salmon (also known as Silver Salmon) spawn in freshwater and head to the Pacific Ocean after a little more than a year to grow into adults. Riparian restoration creates shady conditions that limit the warming of water, which is important for young Coho because they spend a full year in freshwater before migrating to the ocean and they are sensitive to warm water. Log structures create gravel beds for spawning and overhead cover to protect these fish from predators. Like all the migratory fish, passage barrier removal helps adult Coho reach spawning areas and young fish swim upstream in search of cool water in the summer.
A fascinating fish with a long, eel-like body and a suction-cup mouth, Pacific Lamprey migrate from the river to the Pacific Ocean and then back to a stream to spawn. Juvenile lamprey live in patches of submerged sand and spend at least three years there before heading to the ocean to mature there. Projects that remove fish passage barriers allow these fish to reach more spawning habitat. Log structures create sand deposits for juvenile lamprey and gravel bars that are beneficial for spawning fish.
Klamath Smallscale Sucker
Klamath Smallscale Suckers are migratory, but they do not head to the Pacific Ocean to mature like lamprey, salmon, or steelhead. While adults spend most of their time feeding over algae mats on bedrock and boulders in large rivers, they make spawning runs into smaller streams each spring. Projects that remove fish passage barriers benefit this species. We would note here that most fish screens are not protective of larval suckers, which are very small.
Rainbow Trout are wide-spread in the Rogue River Basin, and they exhibit many strategies for survival. Some individuals stay in one small stretch of a creek for their entire lives. They may only grow to nine to twelve inches long. Others migrate to larger rivers or even to the Pacific Ocean to mature before heading back to creeks to spawn. Those fish that swim to the ocean are called “steelhead.” Like other trout and salmon, Rainbow Trout need relatively cool, oxygen-rich water and patches of gravel for spawning. Restoration activities that restore streamside forests and increase stream habitat complexity will benefit this species by keeping water cool and oxygen-rich. Stream habitat complexity projects also accumulate gravel bars for spawning habitat and provide pools and overhead cover to help these fish avoid predators. Because of their migrations, projects that restore fish passage also help this Rainbow Trout/steelhead.
Blending into the gravel and other rocks on the bottom of cool, “clean” creeks and rivers, you have to look hard to find Reticulate Sculpins “hopping” along the bottom of a stream. This small fish benefits from streamside forest restoration and instream habitat complexity projects as these actions keep streams from warming (or create patches of cool water) and prevent sedimentation of the riffle habitats (shallow, generally fast-moving sections of streams) they prefer.