CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – This Saturday, the Rogue River from the mouth upstream to Gold Ray Dam opens to harvest of wild spring chinook salmon. With high numbers of returning wild spring chinook this year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is opening the season about 10 days early.
According to biologists, several signs point to an improved spring chinook run this year. Fishing on the lower river has been very good for most of this season, there are good returns to Cole Rivers Hatchery, and the count of wild springers over Gold Ray Dam is up.
“It’s a great year to fish the Rogue for spring chinook,” says Rogue District Fish Biologist Dan Van Dyke. “There are plenty of hatchery fish and numbers of wild fish are up. Just a reminder, the bag limit is still two adult salmon a day, whether wild or hatchery.”
The bag limit for jack salmon is five per day, whether hatchery or wild. Anglers cannot continue to fish for jack salmon after reach the two bag limit on adult salmon.
Van Dyke attributes this year’s good numbers of returning spring chinook to greatly improved ocean conditions. Harvest restrictions on wild chinook have also helped.
“We had a poor return of adult fish in 2006. A large part of the wild spring chinook returning now were produced by the 2006 run. This shows that when ocean conditions are good, such as when these young fish went to sea in 2007, even a relatively low number of parents can produce a strong return,” Van Dyke said.
Work by the Corps of Engineers to improve water release strategies at Lost Creek Reservoir also helped improve wild fish returns. According to Corps representative Jim Buck, the Corps will focus more on water temperature modeling in the coming years. “We want to provide that additional benefit of cold water at the time of year we can best support these fish,” he said.
The early season opener creates more fishing opportunities while remaining consistent with the 2007 Rogue River Spring Chinook Conservation Plan. The plan emphasizes protection of the early run fish. Based on fish counts through May 9, biologists project a return of 24,000 wild spring chinook this year.
“With these high numbers, we feel confident adding back some additional harvest opportunity on the mid-run wild spring chinook.” Van Dyke said.
The mission of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is to protect and enhance Oregon's fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations. The agency consists of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, a commission-appointed director and a statewide staff of approximately 950 permanent employees. Headquartered in Salem, ODFW has regional offices in Clackamas, Roseburg, Bend, and La Grande with ten district offices located throughout the state. For additional information, please visit www.dfw.state.or.us.