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A good news-bad news New Year.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Happy New Year? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on your outdoors inclination.

Should be happy for skiers and ski resort owners. Propelled by one of the best early snowfalls in recent memory, and big December crowds, the 2006-07 ski season is off to a booming start.

Already, 2007 is happy for many winter steelhead fishermen. Reports from rivers up and down the Oregon Coast indicate that big sea-run trout are arriving earlier and in larger numbers than normal.

Credit the same storms that brought snow to the hills for making the coastal rivers irresistible to steelhead.

Ditto for daredevil kayakers. "Creek boating" is best when the mountains of western Oregon are shedding plenty of water.

Won't be much of a year for smelt fans, though. Expecting another weak run, Washington fishery managers have restricted smelt dipping in the Cowlitz River to Saturdays only. Dipping is allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a limit of 10 pounds per person.

Happier times, however, are certainly ahead for lingcod and flatfish fanciers.

As of Monday, the minimum legal size for lingcod taken along the Oregon Coast is 22 inches. It had been 24 inches. The shorter minimum will translate into more "keepers" for anglers.

`We heard from several fishermen at public meetings that they were catching a lot of 23-inch lingcod,' said Don Bodenmiller, sport groundfish project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Marine Resources Program in Newport. `The lower size limit should enable more anglers to fill their two-fish daily bag limit for lingcod.'

Liberalizing the lingcod size limit was made possible by a new federal stock assessment that indicates that the northern population of lingcod has rebuilt itself from its previous "depleted" status. Thus, there's no longer a cap on the sport harvest of lings.

Meanwhile, another Jan. 1 change in the marine sport fishing regulations adds a separate daily bag limit of 25 for flatfish, which includes flounders, soles, sanddabs, turbots and halibuts other than Pacific halibut. The separate bag limit on marine flatfish is intended to allow anglers more opportunity for those species.

On the other side of the regulatory coin the 2007 Marine Sport Fishing Regulations include additional measures to protect yelloweye and canary rockfish by limiting fishing for certain species in the Stonewall Bank Rockfish Conservation Area (all year) and seaward of the 40-fathom curve (from April 1 to Sept. 30).

For details on marine bottom fishing regulations, see:

Speaking of rebuilding depleted fish stocks, more small steps easing restrictions on fishing for wild coho salmon might be forthcoming on the central Oregon coast.

Bob Buckman, ODFW district fish biologist in Newport, says 2007 might be the year the state initiates discussions with federal fishery managers about the possibility of "loosening coho restrictions in Tenmile Lakes, as well as potentially in river systems where we have particularly healthy runs."

Such discussions, however, would be pointless unless the forecasts for coho returns this year are favorable. Those forecasts should be available in late February.

Meanwhile, Buckman said he likely will propose switching to a fixed season for wild coho in Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.

For the past three years, coho fishing has been allowed in those waters under a strict harvest quota.

While anglers have not come close to filling the quota the past two years, the fishery has generated considerable activity.

For example, through Dec. 1 creel checkers logged about 10,000 angler hours at Siltcoos Lake, Buckman said.

Among all those hours, fewer than 300 of them brought the happiness that comes with harvesting a salmon. (The total catch was 282).

Then again, for many people, there's happiness in the fishing, not just the catching. And they're sure to have a happy new year.

Finally, here's the best resolution I heard last week:

Help stomp out "Nature Deficit Disorder" - a combination of over-programmed lifestyles and plugged-in playtime - by taking your kids or grandkids outdoors more often.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg
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Title Annotation:Columns; Skiers, kayakers have a good year ahead, but some anglers won't be having as much fun
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 2, 2007
Previous Article:OUTDOORS BRIEFLY.
Next Article:LUMBER.

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