Angling Eden Lost or just relocating
UNDERWOOD — Once a steelheader’s paradise, now a century’s worth of silt. That’s the way anglers look at the White Salmon River, bemoaning its present condition. Fish biologists and hydrologists look at it and see a bright future. Avid fisherman Ken Taylor can’t count the number of times he’s made the two-hour drive from his Selah home to the mouth of the White Salmon — the big White Salmon in angler parlance, to delineate it from the Little White Salmon five miles to the west — in pursuit of steelhead or chinook. Two months after Condit Dam was breached, though, looking at the sediment that has filled in the river channel, Taylor thinks those days are over. “It was beautiful, probably one of the most beautiful spots in the world to fish up in that gorge, big boulders and pools,” Taylor says, adding that the dam’s Oct. 26 breaching “pretty much killed that.”The first 300 yards upstream from the Highway 14 bridge, once 18 to 20 feet deep and a popular trolling spot for boating anglers, now just has a few inches of water running over a deep bed of sediment. Most of the estimated 2.4 million cubic yards of silt that accrued over 98 years in the man-made, 92-acre Northwestern Lake above Condit has now moved into or through the 3.3 miles of lower river.