Timely & Accurate Fish Counts on Oregon’s North Umpqua River

In Newsletter: The Wild Steelheader, Oregon by Nick Chambers

Knowing exactly how many salmon and steelhead comprise a particular run is crucial for proper fisheries management.  Throughout wild steelhead range, agencies struggle with tight budgets and frequently, monitoring returning adults falls to the bottom of the priority list.

Winchester Dam and fish ladder

Since the 1950’s the fish ladder and viewing window at Winchester Dam near Roseburg, Oregon on the famed North Umpqua river has given managers and anglers alike an opportunity to monitor and watch fish passage over the dam.  This facility has provided Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) with accurate fish counts to guide management and let interested anglers know how many fish are actually in the North Umpqua above the dam.

The fish counting window in Winchester Dam


About a decade ago, budget constraints began to hamper the agencies ability to capture this important data in a timely manner.  Recently, The Steamboaters and Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelheaders United, joined forces to lend a hand to the agency and begin using some slick technology to count wild and hatchery origin steelhead (both summer and winter runs) as well as Chinook salmon, ESA listed coho salmon, Pacific Lamprey and cutthroat trout.


Staff and volunteers from both organizations will use time lapse video equipment and “Fish-tic” software to provide accurate, weekly counts of the fish crossing Winchester Dam on their journey up the North Umpqua.  Funding for the joint project was generously provided by a grant from the Fly Fishers Club of Oregon.


This project is part of two year study to determine the efficacy of the technology and software and the accuracy of the current fish counting protocols used by ODFW.  It’s hoped that the study will guide future fish monitoring/counting efforts at this, and similar locations throughout Oregon.


Stay tuned for updates in the coming months on the project, as well as to get some accurate fish counts if you’re planning on visiting the North Umpqua for the summer steelhead season.