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Big changes await anglers in 2007.

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

A big year appears to be in store for Willamette spring chinook anglers in 2007, big changes may be in store for Rogue River salmon fishermen and regulations governing the biggest fish in Oregon have been set. The details:

While fewer Willamette spring chinook salmon are expected to enter the Columbia River next year, the loss in numbers should be more than made up for by the gain in the average size of the fish.

That's because 5-year-old salmon dominate the "2007 Preliminary Willamette Spring Chinook Forecast," issued recently by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

The biologists' forecast calls for a total run of 52,000 springers, down 13 percent from last year's count of 59,700.

But an estimated 42,500 of the 2007 fish will be big 'uns - 5-year-olds that typically weigh almost 20 pounds, according to Chris Kern, assistant fisheries manager for the ODFW.

Last year's run was dominated by smaller 4-year-old salmon, which weigh

about 12 pounds apiece.

Spring chinook fishing begins in the Columbia River below Portland in late February and peaks in the McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette rivers at Eugene in May.

Speaking of spring chinook, the ODFW is soliciting public comment on proposed harvest restrictions for wild springers in portions of the Rogue River.

The proposed "conservation plan" is prompted by the fact that numbers of adult wild spring chinook "have dropped significantly since Lost Creek Dam was built in the late 1970s,' said Tom Satterthwaite, fisheries researcher and co-author of the draft plan.

Before the dam was built, wild spring chinook returns averaged about 28,000 per year, he said. Since 1990, wild spring chinook returns have averaged about 9,000 - in spite of added restrictions on ocean harvests.

In 2004, the ODFW limited anglers on the Rogue River to one wild spring chinook per day and three per year. Now the state is considering adding a refuge area for wild chinook.

The draft plan includes a couple of different possibilities for an angling `deadline,' above which wild spring chinook would have to be released unharmed. Anglers could catch and keep hatchery fish in the refuge area. Wild fish account for about 40 percent of the run on the upper Rogue River.

Copies of the draft plan are available on the Web at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/nfcp/rogue_river/

The ODFW will hold two public meetings to gather input on the draft conservation plan - Jan. 23 in Gold Beach and Jan. 30 in Medford. Send comments to: Rogue.SpringChinook@state.or.us; to: ODFW Gold Beach office at P.O. Box 642, 29907 Airport Way, Gold Beach, OR 97444; or to: ODFW, 1495 East Gregory Road, Central Point, OR 97503.

Oregon and Washington adopted 2007 Columbia River sturgeon fishing regulations during a recent Columbia River Compact meeting.

Recent surveys indicate the Columbia River sturgeon population is stable, "so fishery managers adopted a season similar to last year,' said John North, ODFW Columbia River fisheries program manager.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, the following rules will be in effect in addition to the permanent rules printed in the 2007 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations:

1. Retention of green sturgeon is prohibited in Columbia River recreational fisheries. Green sturgeon were listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act during summer 2006.

2. Above Wauna Powerlines (mainstem Columbia River from the Powerlines at river mile 40, upstream to Bonneville Dam and the lower Willamette River upstream to Willamette Falls including Multnomah Channel):

- Jan. 1 - July 31: Open to retention of white sturgeon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

- Aug. 1 - Sept. 30: Closed to retention of sturgeon, but open for catch and release.

- Oct. 1 - Dec. 31: Open to retention of white sturgeon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

3. Below Wauna Powerlines (mainstem Columbia River from the powerlines at river mile 40 downstream to the mouth at Buoy 10):

- Jan. 1 - April 30: Open to retention of white sturgeon seven days per week. Minimum 42-inch size limit.

- May 1 - 11: Closed to sturgeon retention but open for catch and release.

- May 12 - July 4: Open to retention of white sturgeon seven days per week. Minimum 45-inch size limit.

- July 5 - Dec. 31: Closed to sturgeon retention but open for catch and release.

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 26, 2006
Words:729
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