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Anglers, hunters await commission's call.

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

While most of us are preparing to stalk the malls, hunting for gifts and angling for bargains, Oregon's Fish and Wildlife commissioners will be busy dealing with issues that will have an impact on our hunting and fishing opportunities.

On the agenda for Friday's meeting at ODFW headquarters in Salem is a decision on the 2005 bottomfishing regulations.

If commissioners follow the recommendations of their staff, the daily bag limit on "marine fish" will be cut by 20 percent - from 10 per day to eight. The retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish will continue to be banned, and the lingcod daily bag limit will be two fish.

A citizen advisory committee recommended the reduced bag limit as the lesser of two evils - the greater evil being a repeat of this year's abrupt shutdown of the basic bottomfishing season.

Normally a year-round sport in Oregon, groundfish angling was closed in August this year because anglers had filled the quota on black rockfish.

With an eight-fish bag limit, advisory committee members believe the quota - which will be 10 metric tons less in 2005 than this year's 342 metric tons - should last all year.

ODFW staffers fear the daily bag limit may have to drop as low as seven fish to assure year-round fishing, so the staff recommendation includes provision for a mid-year review in July.

The advisory committee includes several members of the Oregon charter boat fleet, which accounts for about 70 percent of the black rockfish caught. They say the charter fleet can help its own cause by, for example, targeting more blue rockfish (which are generally found in deeper water then the blacks), no longer extending trips beyond the number of hours advertised in order to get everyone on board a limit, and by not allowing crew members to also catch limits.

As things stand, black rockfish account for the bulk of the "marine fish" catch. Oregon regulations define marine fish as including greenling, cabezon and several other species - but not lingcod, salmon, tuna or Pacific halibut, each of which has its own bag limit.

Speaking of halibut, regulation changes for that species recommended by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will also be considered by the commission.

Among the changes: adding a third day to scheduled halibut seasons between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain. Often, one or both days of the Friday-Saturday "seasons" are wiped out by bad weather. During the May-July period, Thursdays would be added. Sundays would be added during openings in the August-October fishery.

The PFMC is also eliminating the minimum length requirement on halibut (currently 32 inches) and increasing Oregon's allotted share of the West Coast sports catch.

Hunters, meanwhile, will be interested in what the commission decides regarding goose management issues related to the Northwest Oregon Permit Goose Zone - including an expansion of that zone - and in the opening round of public testimony on the proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

The influential Oregon Hunters Association is calling for several changes in the wolf plan, which it says are necessary to prevent the wolf - once it becomes established in Oregon - from "locally extirpating elk and deer herds" and from preying on the state's limited Bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat herds.

The OHA also wants the state to come up with a budget for wolf management that does not rely upon "hunter dollars" as the default funding source.

"This will be a very tough sell to the hunter who is being asked to pay more in license and tag fees, while at the same time being told to give up elk and deer hunting opportunity to feed wolves," the association's position paper says.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 9, 2004
Words:626
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