SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today adopted 2010 halibut and sturgeon regulations, got a preview of upcoming ocean salmon seasons and approved $1.4 million in funding for 41 projects designed to improve fish habitat and improve sportsman access to private lands around the state.
The actions were taken by the seven-member commission during its March meeting at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife headquarters in Salem.
Halibut fishing opens in May
The Commission approved a suite of halibut fishing seasons off the Oregon coast recommended by ODFW’s marine staff based in Newport. The largest and most popular halibut fishery is a 200-mile all-depths section of the coast between Cape Falcon near Manzanita and Humbug Mountain south of Port Orford. For this area, the Commission approved a nine-day spring halibut season and a 14-day fall season. The spring season will take place May 13-15, May 20-22 and June 3-5, with extra back-up dates of June 17-19, July 1-3, July 15-17, and July 29-31 available as long as the total catch does not exceed 105,948 pounds. The fall recreational halibut fishing season will take place every other Friday and Saturday from Aug. 6 to Oct. 30 or until the sub-area all-depth catch limit of 141,265 pounds of halibut is harvested. The near-shore season, for ocean waters inside the 40 fathom line, will be open seven days a week from May 1 until Oct. 31 or until the harvest quota of 12,284 pounds is achieved.
North of Cape Falcon, off the coast near Astoria and north to Leadbetter Point in Washington state, sport halibut fishing will be open three days a week, Thursday – Saturday, through July 18 or until 9,405 pounds of halibut is harvested. The summer season in this area will open three days a week, Friday-Sunday, from Aug. 6 through Sept. 27 or the total harvest reaches 13,436 pounds. On the Oregon coast south of Humbug Mountain, halibut fishing will be open seven days a week, through Oct. 31.
The statewide daily bag limit on halibut is one fish, with an annual limit of six fish.
The 2010 harvest limits are 15 percent lower than last year and were set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
Pacific sardine seasons similar to 2009
The Commission approved fishing regulations that conform to those previously set by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. The harvest quotas are similar to the 2009 regulations.
New measures aim to protect sturgeon
The Commission dealt with several measures designed to protect the state’s sturgeon populations, which have been showing some signs of distress.
Commissioners adopted a statewide ban on green sturgeon, established a new white sturgeon sanctuary in the Willamette River, and extended an existing white sturgeon sanctuary in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.
The new Willamette River sturgeon sanctuary extends from the Willamette Falls about two miles downstream to the I-205 Bridge. The revised Columbia River sturgeon sanctuary begins at Bonneville Dam and continues downstream to the upstream end of Skamania Island at River Marker #82. Sturgeon fishing will be prohibited in both sanctuaries May 1 - Aug. 31, during sturgeon spawning season. Fishing for other species such as salmon, steelhead and shad will still be allowed inside the sanctuaries during the sturgeon fishing closure.
The Commission also closed a bank fishing site below Willamette Falls known as the “Oregon City Wall” out of concern that 40-foot cliffs in the area pose a risk to the safe release of sturgeon caught from the bank in this area. The closure takes effect April 1. The closure area is approximately 300 feet downstream of the Oregon City/West Linn Bridge (Hwy.43) extending upstream approximately 1,700 feet. Boat fishing in this area will still be allowed.
Commissioners approved sturgeon fishing seasons adopted Feb. 18 at a joint hearing of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
Ocean salmon fishing preview
Salmon fishermen can generally expect improved prospects throughout the Oregon coast, according to Ron Boyce, who presented an overview of proposed options developed earlier in the week by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which has jurisdiction over fishing regulations in 317,690 square miles of ocean waters off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and California.
“We’re pretty pleased with where we’re sitting,” said Boyce, who is the technical resources manager for ODFW’s Ocean Salmon and Columbia River program. “The bottom line is the options look good for both commercial and recreational fishing.”
The fall chinook forecast for the Columbia River this year is 652,000 fish, which is up 30 percent from 510,900 in 2009. The forecast for hatchery coho is 408,000 fish, which is down from more than a million coho last year. The forecast for Klamath fall chinook is 331,500, down from 506,000 fish a year ago.
Boyce said the biggest change for ocean fisheries is the return of commercial and recreational chinook salmon seasons to the Oregon coast south of Cape Falcon. That area has been closed to fishing for chinook the past two years, primarily out of concern for salmon migrating to the Pacific Northwest from California’s Sacramento River. Boyce said PFMC representatives are encouraged by forecast of an improved Sacramento River fall chinook run, which has doubled to 245,000 fish from 122,000 a year ago but is still significantly below the historic average. North of Cape Falcon in the Columbia River areas, Boyce said, ocean sport fisherman will likely see an increase in the allowable harvest of chinook salmon over last year’s quota of 5,400 fish but a reduction in the coho limit of 96,5000 in 2009. The proposed daily bag limit is two salmon of which only one can be a chinook.
PFMC is scheduled to adopt its proposed 2010 salmon fishing regulations at its April 10-15 meeting in Portland. Once PFMC has adopted salmon seasons and regulations for waters three to 200 miles offshore, those rules will be forwarded to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which normally adopts similar seasons and regulations for state waters within three miles of shore.
Boyce noted that ODFW will hold a series of public meetings in late April to help fishery managers craft seasons for salmon fishing in coastal rivers and the three ocean terminal areas off the Tillamook, Elk and Chetco rivers. Those meetings are scheduled for April 26 in Gold Beach and Coos Bay, April 27 in Newport and April 28 in Tillamook.
Access and habitat projects approved
The Commission approved $764,000 in grants for 16 Access and Habitat projects, which provide public hunting access to more than 170,000 acres private land, plus $610,805 in grants for 25 Restoration and Enhancement projects aimed at improving fish habitat around the state. All of the projects were recommended to the Commission by their respective citizen review boards, and most included funding from surcharges on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses or ammunition and many also have funding from local partners.
Wolf plan evaluation begins
The Commission began the evaluation process for the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was adopted in 2005 and is due for a review. The plan was put together through an extensive public process involving stakeholders from the livestock industry, wildlife conservation groups, federal land managers, county commissioners, and Native American Tribes.
“We are not starting over,” said Chair Marla Rae about the plan evaluation. “But we want to touch base with all of the stakeholders and with the general public to find out what worked well and what didn’t.”
Comments about the Wolf Plan can be emailed to ODFW.Comments@state.or.us; mailed to Wildlife Division, 3406 Cherry Ave NE, Salem, OR 97303.
Dingeman to head law enforcement unit
Commissioners met the temporary Director of the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division. Lieutenant Mike Dingeman will fill this position during the temporary reassignment of Captain Walt Markee to oversee the Northwest Region operations from region headquarters in Salem. The temporary assignments are expected to last from six to eight months.
Dingeman will be assisted at the OSP General Headquarters Fish and Wildlife Division by Lieutenant Jeff Samuels and Lieutenant Andy Heider.
The OSP Fish and Wildlife Division enforce the state’s fishing and hunting regulations on behalf of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In another law enforcement-related matter, commissioners reaffirmed an earlier order revoking a commercial Dungeness crab permit held by Dennis Sturgell.