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NEW FAVORITE TARGET GETS OFFICIAL PROTECTION.

Byline: Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Bad things happen in threes, some people believe. That case certainly can be made when it comes to fisheries along the Oregon Coast this year.

A third blow to anglers came last week, when state fishery managers reduced the bag limit on sport-caught "marine fish" species from six per day to five. They also implemented a rule that keeps anglers from targeting bottomfish in waters deeper than 20 fathoms.

The changes took effect Monday, and are scheduled to remain in effect through the end of 2008.

This is the third hit saltwater sport fishing has taken this year.

The first, and by far most damaging, was the closure of the chinook salmon fishery in waters south of Cape Falcon, near Tillamook, together with getting only a token (9,000 fish quota) hatchery coho salmon season.

Then, in mid-June, came word of a reduction in fall chinook fishing opportunities in most coastal rivers and estuaries. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife imposed a set of one-year restrictive regulations for coastal fall chinook salmon in ocean terminal areas, and bay and river fisheries.

These temporary regulations include reductions in daily and seasonal bag limits and closing some areas to protect wild fall chinook. In most waters, anglers will be allowed to keep only one non-fin-clipped adult chinook per day (and five non-fin-clipped adult chinook during the Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 season).

The ocean chinook closure and inland salmon restrictions were prompted by sharp declines in projected run sizes.

The emergency rule change on marine fish, on the other hand, was prompted by a higher-than-anticipated catch of some rockfish species - which in turn can be traced to the fact more boats are targeting bottomfish in lieu of salmon.

"The catch of numerous groundfish species is higher than last year," said Don Bodenmiller, sport groundfish project leader for the ODFW's Marine Resources Program. "Restrictions on ocean salmon fishing have put increased pressure on sport groundfish this summer. If we take no action to slow things down, we project the groundfish fishery will close early."

Species of groundfish in Oregon waters managed through state and federal harvest caps include black rockfish and yelloweye rockfish.

In 2004, the nearshore sport groundfish season closed just before Labor Day, when anglers reached the harvest cap for black rockfish.

In 2005, the fishery for black rockfish was closed in mid-October.

Fishery managers and charter operators prefer to see bottomfish season open year-round so there always is some opportunity to fish in the ocean.

Black rockfish account for the majority of the groundfish harvest, so reducing the marine fish bag limit should forestall reaching the harvest cap for that species.

Yelloweye rockfish generally live in deeper waters, so bringing the fishery inside of 20 fathoms should reduce the incidental catch of that species.

"Yelloweye rockfish catch is up coastwide off Oregon," Bodenmiller said.

The changes were made after consultation with ODFW's Sportfish Advisory Committee, which includes private anglers, charter boat operators and a port representative, he said.

More changes to the ocean groundfish regulations "may be needed in the event anglers approach or reach other state or federal harvest caps on species such as other nearshore rockfish, canary rockfish, cabezon or greenling," Bodenmiller said.

The marine fish bag limit includes rockfish, greenling, cabezon and some other marine species. Anglers occasionally catch, but may not keep, yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish. The two species are considered depleted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and a certain percentage of those incidentally caught must be reported as mortality.

Anglers may fish for flatfish, such as sanddabs, flounder and sole inside the 40-fathom line through Dec. 31, since anglers can generally avoid incidental catches of rockfish when targeting those species.

Lingcod anglers may continue to keep two per day, but now are restricted to waters inside the 20-fathom line.

In addition, ocean anglers may continue to fish for Pacific halibut, salmon and species such as tuna under current regulations.

"Halibut fishing has been good and coho salmon fishing is improving coastwide," said Steve Williams, Marine and Columbia River Program Manager.

A list of groundfish and fish included in the five-fish marine bag limit and waypoints for the 40-fathom line can be found in the 2008 Oregon Sport Ocean Regulations for Salmon, Halibut and other Marine Fish Species.

Those items as well as waypoints for the 20-fathom line may be found at www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/regulations/sport_fishing/.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mike.stahlberg@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Outdoors Columnist
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 8, 2008
Words:752
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