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A trio of fishermen make their way up the North Umpqua River in 2018.

Editor's note: Information from the original version of this story changed shortly after its print and online publication. For an up-to-date version of this story, click here.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday morning enacted an emergency closure to the harvest of wild spring Chinook salmon on the Umpqua River in an effort to help protect the population making a return to the South Umpqua River.

Mainstem Umpqua River anglers may only retain hatchery spring Chinook salmon during the upcoming Feb. 1 to June 30 springer season. All wild salmon must be released unharmed, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Meghan Dugan.

Anglers on the North Umpqua River may still retain wild spring Chinook as per the 2020 aggregate bag limit regulations, she said.

The ODFW’s closure came as a result of low returns over the past two years. In fall 2018, only 29 wild spring Chinook returned to the South Umpqua, and 64 returned in 2019. Over the past two decades, yearly returns averaged about 200 fish which is below the 600-fish goal set in the Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan.

ODFW District fish biologist Greg Huchko said the wild South Umpqua spring Chinook salmon are an at-risk population.

“There is no simple solution to saving these wild fish. However, we are trying to make a meaningful impact by reducing harvest on the mainstem. It’s a proactive measure to help these fish,” Huchko said in a press release.

“Ocean conditions have been poor the last few years, and we’re seeing reduced salmon runs on most coastal rivers,” Huchko continued. “On the South Umpqua, we’ve also had warm water and lower than normal flows the past few years which negatively impacts this population.”

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