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Illegal fish dams along Greenway net 1 arrest

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife asks people to watch out for illegal fish dams on Bear Creek designed to capture spawning fall chinook. [ODFW photo]

A man was arrested on misdemeanor wildlife charges last week for allegedly stringing a net across Bear Creek to catch spawning chinook salmon and wasting at least 15 fish.

Ronald Alan Castro, 62, was arrested Oct. 14 on charges of unlawfully taking game or fish and wasting game or fish.

Police said Castro strung up a tent along Bear Creek near Interstate 5 and used the makeshift dam to intercept and capture the fish.

The trap was one of several small illegal dams that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Rogue District fish biologist Dan Van Dyke said he has witnessed between Medford and Central Point this season.

Bear Creek water levels are very low at a time when fall chinook migrate up the creek to spawn, Van Dyke said.

“These large fish are very visible, but also very vulnerable,” Van Dyke said.

State biologists and Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division troopers have responded to at least two sites where people have placed dams across the creek to intercept the fish before they’re able to spawn, according to Van Dyke.

ODFW has reached out to groups active in habitat restoration work along the Bear Creek Greenway asking them to watch for similar incidents of salmon being taken illegally, and to report it to police. That request later was shared on social media.

When asked about recent incidents, OSP Capt. Stephanie Bigman provided information about the Oct. 14 incident that culminated with Castro being cited and released.

Van Dyke called OSP Fish and Wildlife troopers after spotting a dam near an unauthorized camp along the Bear Creek Greenway near I-5 shortly after noon Oct. 14, according to the police report information.

Once on scene, two troopers found approximately 15 salmon rotting in a laundry basket submerged in the creek. They questioned Castro at a large unauthorized camp near the dam.

Castro complied with police demands to remove his tarp from the creek, and police cited and released him on the misdemeanor charges, as well as on outstanding warrants.

Jackson County Circuit Court records show Castro has pending charges of first- and second-degree trespassing, second-degree theft and second-degree disorderly conduct stemming from three arrests between September 2021 and April this year.

Charges have not yet been filed in the wildlife case, Jackson County Circuit Court records show. Nor have charges been filed on a July 5 incident when Ashland police arrested him on felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon and first-degree criminal mischief, along with counts of menacing, second-degree disorderly conduct and second-degree criminal mischief, according to jail records.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.