Lamprey Harvesting

The Warm Springs Branch of Natural Resources, their Fisheries department and summer youth were at Willamette Falls yesterday (Mon, Jun 25, 2024) to harvest Pacific lamprey.  Lamprey have provided an important source of food for the tribes of the Columbia River Basin, who prized them for their rich, fatty meat.  The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission says “while generally considered a trash fish by the non-tribal population, the tribes have attempted to maintain their connection to the lamprey. As the numbers of returning lamprey declined throughout the Columbia River Basin, the few places that lamprey remained abundant became even more precious—most notably at Willamette Falls at Oregon City.”

Lamprey are usually caught by hand at places on the river where rapids and waterfalls force the lamprey to attach themselves to rocks to rest before attempting to move further upstream.  At Willamette Falls, there continues to be a harvestable run of lamprey.  The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs maintains fishing and gathering rights at Willamette Falls, a right guaranteed in the Treaty of 1855.  You can learn more about efforts to restore lamprey populations at