Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pete Heley Outdoors 7 / 29 / 2015

To head off any future sniveling by area residents about the severe restrictions recently enacted by the ODFW I would like to point out that the move was necessary and could have been much worse. Washington imposed similar restrictions and closures on most of their streams and Washington anglers actually lost more fishing time than did Oregon anglers since Washington previously allowed nightfishing for salmonid species and the new “Hoot Owl” restrictions now in effect in most of Washington only allow fishing between midnight and 2 pm. Salmonid anglers in Oregon lost the right to fish from 2 pm until one hour after sunset.

The Oregon coast escaped the emergency closures and restrictions as the ocean and tidewater areas were excluded. What they won’t escape is the resulting increase in fishing pressure as a result of reduced fishing opportunities in the rest of the state.

When salmon anglers can get out to fish the ocean, the most successful are fishing at least six miles out in water at least 330 feet deep. They are fishing between 20 and 50 feet below the surface and trolling a little faster than normal – around two miles per hour. Using one of the many brands and varieties of “helmets” will allow your baits to run properly for longer periods of time. Using baitfish strips with hoochies will also allow an angler to cover more water when fishing the ocean.

The Chinook salmon holding below Reedsport offer a fair early morning bite and a few salmon have been caught by spinner flingers casting spinners from the bank at Half Moon Bay, Osprey Point and Gardiner. The few anglers fishing the South Jetty for bottomfish reported goog fishing last week. Fishing along area beaches for surfperch has been fair when winds and surf conditions allow it.

Recently, the smallmouth bass fishing on the Umpqua River has been the best in several years. I would like to tell you about the two days I spent on Loon Lake nearly 50 years ago while I was a teenager that provided me with some insights that jumpstarted my bass fishing success. I spent the first day having very mediocre success on very small bass. I fished until dark and when  I figured Lloyd Keeland, the owner of Duckett’s Resort and a good friend of my dad’s had gone home to sleep, I hauled my eight foot pram on the bank, propped one end up on my tacklebox and tried to go to sleep beneath it. After a few hour nap, I found myself awake and bored and only about 20 feet from several two pound bass that had ignored my best and numerous other people’s best efforts during the previous day. I grabbed my fishing rod which had a black plastic worm on it and cast near the mouth of the small stream that enters Loon Lake at the resort.

Imagine my surprise when one of those two pounders hit on my first cast and I caught two more during my next four casts. Three bass in five casts after more than 100 fruitless casts with the same lure during daylight hours.

Suddenly, feeling very confident, I decided to launch my pram and try for the even larger bass along the rocky shoreline near Duckett’s. A goodsized bass grabbed the worm on my first cast, but got off. I caught a bass of nearly three pounds on my second cast, but it tore up my lure and since I didn’t have a flashlight or even a match, I was done for the night.

After being awake for much of the night, I barely launched my pram the next morning early enough to avoid a scolding from Lloyd.

The next day found me fishing near Loon Lake’s Mill Creek outlet. I spotted a good-sized bass and cast the plastic worm to it for more than two hours. It ignored eveything and would take off for about 20 minutes when a cast would land too close.  I finally decided to go to lighter line and decided to cast from an abandoned piece of logging equipment in the lake near the lunker’s preferred hangout.

I cast the worm so that it sank down to lay atop a large log laying horizontally about 18-inches beneath the surface.

And then I waited.

It was a good 30 minutes before the bass returned and I waited another 15 minutes before I moved the worm about an inch.

I was totally unprepared for how quickly the bass inhaled the fake worm, but did manage to set the hook and play the bass to a point where it was laying below me just out of my reach.

I didn’t land that bass. My line broke when I tried to lift the bass out of the water a short distance so that I could grab it. But I did learn to never underestimate the wariness  of good-sized largemouths – one of two valuable lessons I learned during those two days on Loon Lake nearly 50 years ago.

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Mardon Resort / Potholes Reservoir Fishing Report

Returning to normal July/August temperatures has made fishing all day a very enjoyable experience. But, the water sports enthusiasts love boarding and water skiing in those high 90 and 100 degree days. Bass and walleye fishing continue to provide simply amazing action. Catch and release bass anglers are using, spinnerbaits, crank baits, drop shot techniques, senkos, tube baits and 5” grubs on a football lead-head. Many bass fishers are accidentally catching an occasional walleye. The best areas to Jig for walleye are the mouth of Frenchman’s Waste way, near Goose Island, and by the orange buoys at the outlet to the Potholes Canal. Fisher’s trolling continues to bag limits or near limits using a spinner and crawler combination trolling at a speed of 1.25 MPH. Crank baits, such as Rapala Shad Raps, Berkley Flicker Shad and many other types of diving plugs, have been working well for walleye in the sand dunes.

Mary Bafus with a beautiful trout caught on an early morning fishing trip.

Mary Bafus with a beautiful trout caught on an early morning fishing trip.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 7 / 22 / 2015

I applaud the ODFW in going proactive to protect Oregon’s fisheries during the current drought conditions and elevated water temperatures. In fact they may not have gone far enough, since many streams are still legal to fish before 2 pm daily. If the ODFW had not acted, virtually all of Oregon’s fisheries would have suffered a negative impact for years to come. Anglers can help make these restrictions more effective by limiting how often they fish Oregon streams and quitting well before 2 pm in waters currently under that restriction. Anglers should also avoid practicing “catch and release” fishing since low river flows and high water temperatures make it very difficult to release even warmwater fish, let alone trout and other salmonids.

In fact, under the current stream conditions. the most problematic anglers are going to be the ones most often thought of as the most sportsmanlike – anglers fishing with flyrods or light spinning gear since they usually take longer to land the fish they hook as these fish will be more stressed and the anglers practicing catch and release fishing as these fish will very likely suffer delayed mortality after being released.

Even anglers fishing lakes should concentrate their efforts in the early morning – even though not legally required to do so. The fishing will almost certainly be better and any fish an angler chooses to release will be more likely to survive. Please check the ODFW website for more information on a stream by stream basis.

Area anglers should consider themselves fortunate since the ocean and the tidewater areas of coastal streams are not restricted fishingwise.

When anglers can cross the Umpqua River Bar and fish the ocean, the salmon fishing has been fair to good with most of the cohos caught recently being the unclipped, unkeepable kind. Chinook salmon fishing in the ocean has been inconsistent, but should be improving. Most of the ocean salmon fishing has been taking place in water less than 200 feet deep and less than 30 feet beneath the surface.

Fishing for Chinooks in the Umpqua River below Reedsport has been fair in the early mornings. Very warm water near Reedsport and above will undoubtedly keep some Chinooks from going farther upriver. During high tides, ocean water will cool the lower Umpqua Riverby several degrees as far upriver as Gardiner.

For anglers wishing to cast spinners from the bank for salmon at Half Moon Bay and Osprey Point, the best time for salmon crossing the Umpqua River Bar is usually the first 90 minutes following high tide.

Strong winds have made surf fishing for pinkfin perch difficult, but a few anglers are still making decent perch catches in the Umpqua River above Winchester Bay.

Striped bass angling remains very slow on the Smith and Umpqua rivers and fair on the Coquille River where most of the stripers are too small to legally keep.

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Oregon Health Authority Issues Advisory For Soft Shell Clams Along The Oregon Coast

Removing skin from clam’s siphon dramatically reduces arsenic levels, public health officials say
The Oregon Health Authority is issuing a health advisory for the length of the Oregon Coast for softshell clams because they contain high levels of naturally occurring arsenic.

The advisory is most important for people who dig their own clams and target the specific species Mya arenaria, since these clams are not commercially available in markets or restaurants.

The advisory, issued today by the OHA Public Health Division, recommends removing the skin from the siphon, or “neck,” of softshell clams before eating them. Softshell clams are found primarily in estuary and intertidal regions of the Oregon coast. This advisory stems from tests the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality performed on a variety of shellfish species collected along the Oregon coast as part of its Water Quality Toxics Monitoring Program.

DEQ’s tests found that when analyzed whole without the shell, softshell clams contained unusually high levels of inorganic arsenic. Most of the arsenic was concentrated in the skin covering the clam’s siphon. Researchers found that by removing the skin covering the siphon before eating, the arsenic can be greatly reduced, to levels that are not harmful.

Arsenic levels varied along the Oregon coast: Clams on the north coast had the most arsenic; clams on the south coast had the least arsenic; clams on the central coast were in between.

Those planning to eat softshell clams with siphon skins intact should review the OHA’s recommended meal limits, which are available at

The advisory does not include other species of shellfish. In addition to softshell clams, DEQ tested Olympia oysters (a native species of oyster), California mussels, and purple varnish clams, and determined these species are not of concern. The tests looked for a wide range of potential contaminants, including other metals such as cadmium, mercury, and selenium; chlorinated pesticides like DDT and chlordane; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); dioxins and furans; tributyl tin; and brominated flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs). None of these other contaminants were present at high enough concentrations to pose a public health risk.

Public health officials say that since the arsenic contaminating the clams is naturally occurring, the advisory is likely to be permanent.

By issuing the advisory, health officials hope to increase the public’s awareness of shellfish species to be avoided, those to keep eating, and ways to reduce exposure to known contaminants when possible. While it is important for people to know about contaminants in shellfish, it is equally important to keep shellfish on the table. Health officials continue to encourage everyone to eat a variety of shellfish as part of a healthy diet.

OHA officials emphasize the advisory is about encouraging people to be cautious about certain kinds of shellfish, not all types of shellfish, and to prepare them correctly.

“Because eating shellfish and other aquatic species can be an important part of a healthy diet, we want people to continue eating shellfish,” said toxicologist David Farrer, Ph.D., of OHA’s Public Health Division. “If they plan to consume softshell clams, we just recommend they remove the siphon skin before eating them.”

To learn more online about why fish is good for you and get information about fish consumption advisories in Oregon, visit

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Chinook Salmon Die-off On The John Day River

An estimated 109 wild spring Chinook salmon in the upper section of the Middle Fork John Day River died last week, apparently due to low river flows and warm temperatures.

According to Brent Smith, ODFW fish biologist in John Day, water temperatures in the mid-70s combined with low stream flows likely led to the deaths of these fish.  Like many rivers across Oregon, stream flows in the Middle Fork John Day have been extremely low this summer.

The spring Chinook die-off was first discovered by ODFW staff on July 7 near Windlass Creek.  The following two days more dead fish were observed during a survey conducted over a 17-mile reach downstream of Hwy. 7.

Similar salmon die-offs occurred in 2007 and 2013 with high temperatures being the main cause.  The Middle Fork’s lack of riparian vegetation combined with a wide and shallow channel exposes much of the river to direct sunlight which can lead to cause quick rises in water temperature.

Smith said he expects to see additional salmon mortalities for the rest of the summer until spawning occurs in early September. He said the John Day basin as a whole is seeing a strong salmon return this year and recent summer rains have brought some relief.

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ODFW Takes Action To Protect Native Fish

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has curtailed fishing hours on most of Oregon’s rivers to avoid additional stress on native fish already suffering from high water temperatures and low stream flows from this year’s drought.

Effective Saturday, July 18, and until further notice, all waterbodies defined as streams in the 2015 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations are closed above tidewater (where applicable) to fishing for trout salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise.

Angling for these species will be prohibited at all times in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls, including the Clackamas River up to the Interstate 205 Bridge, the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River. The following sections of the John Day River will also have complete closures:  The mainstem of the John Day River above Indian Creek near Prairie City; the Middle Fork of the John Day River above Mosquito Creek near the town of Galena; the North Fork of the John Day River above Desolation Creek and Desolation Creek.

Some streams will remain open for angling under normal hours because they are less prone to high water temperature risks due to springs, tides, cold water releases from some dams and high elevations.

Streams that will remain open for angling under normal hours are:

Northeast Zone:

The Wallowa River above Sunrise Road; Lostine River above Pole Bridge Campground; Prairie Creek; Hurricane Creek; Spring Creek; and all streams within the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.
Southeast Zone:

The Malheur River and its tributaries; the Owyhee River below the Owyhee Reservoir; and the Blitzen River and its tributaries above Page Springs Weir and Bridge Creek.
The Klamath River and its tributaries.
Central Zone:

The Deschutes River above Macks Canyon; the Metolius River; the Fall River; the Crooked River (from mouth to Bowman Dam); and Tumalo Creek.
The Hood River and its tributaries and the White River and its tributaries.
Willamette Zone:

The McKenzie River and its tributaries; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River below Dexter Dam; the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and its tributaries above Lookout Point Reservoir; and Alton Baker Canoe Canal.
The mainstem of the South Santiam River below Foster Dam; Quartzville Creek; the North Santiam River above Detroit Lake; and the Breitenbush River.
Southwest Zone:

The mainstem Rogue River from Fishers Ferry upstream to William Jess Dam and all tributaries upstream of the William Jess Dam and Lost Creek Reservoir.
In addition to the statewide fishing restrictions, a hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 via teleconference to discuss curtailment of recreational catch-and-release sturgeon fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

“Earlier this month, we indicated that if these drought conditions continued, we may have to close or restrict some fisheries,” said Mike Gauvin, ODFW’s recreation fisheries manager. “These are difficult, but necessary actions to protect native fish already suffering from extreme drought conditions.”

“This doesn’t mean that all fishing has to stop.” According to Gauvin, most streams will still be open in the early hours when water temperatures are cool, and there are many great fishing opportunities in lakes, reservoirs for hatchery stocked rainbow trout, warmwater fish like, smallmouth bass or crappie, as well as all of the ocean fisheries.

“As extreme weather events become more frequent due to climate change, we need to be prepared for the stress these conditions will have on fish, wildlife and their habitats,” Ed Bowles, Fish Division Administrator said. “Planning for the effects of these changing climatic conditions presents a unique challenge for us, yet we are committed to doing our best to enhance resiliency to climate change and avoid significant impacts on our natural resources.”

ODFW already implemented emergency regulations on several other rivers. In addition, trout stocking schedules and locations have been adjusted and some hatchery fish have been released early as a result of high water temperatures. Elevated water temperatures have led to salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon deaths in several rivers.
Gauvin encourages the public to report sightings of stranded fish, or other wildlife distressed by drought, to the department and to take precautions when fishing during these drought conditions.

On days when temperatures soar, anglers can do their part to reduce the stress on fish by adopting the following measures:

Fish early in day when water temperatures are cooler.
Use a thermometer to check water temperatures frequently. Stop fishing when temperatures exceed 70 degrees.
Consider changing locations to high elevation lakes or shaded streams near headwaters. These places are often cooler.
Use barbless hooks so you can release fish easily without harming them.
Use the appropriate gear and land fish quickly. The longer the fight, the less likely the fish will survive.
Keep the fish in the water when you unhook it and cradle the fish upright until it revives enough to swim away.
Use your judgement. If conditions where you want to fish seem especially severe (low, hot water), consider fishing somewhere else where water conditions are better.
Check the regulation update pages on the ODFW website before you head out to make sure temporary emergency regulations have not been put in place for the waters you want to fish.
Gauvin recommends anglers check the weekly Recreation Report on the ODFW website for updates on stocking, water conditions and boating access.

In addition to fish and fishing related actions, the dry, warm weather could increase the danger of wildfires. Wildland fires can destroy hundreds, sometimes thousands, of acres of habitat. Late season fires may also affect hunting season dates, hunting opportunities and the condition of winter range for deer, elk and other species. Fewer water holes means wildlife will have to travel farther for water. Leave wildlife access to water by not camping at water sources.

Less water will also increase competition for placement of hunting blinds amongst hunters. Setting up a blind at a water hole is a common and lawful practice but hunters are asked to be extra considerate of other hunters and wildlife this year. Also, follow land manager’s regulations and don’t set up blinds too early or leave them indefinitely. BLM allows hunting blinds to be up for 10 days. U.S. Forest Service requires a permit and also has a time limitation.

The Bureau of Land Management does not allow camping within 300 feet of water sources; U.S. Forest Service rules vary by forest and area.

See the Oregon Department of Forestry’s webpage for latest fire restrictions and check their Corporate Closure page for information about access to private timberland, or call the landowner.

In the effort to raise awareness of the dire conditions that Oregon faces this summer, Governor Brown’s office has created a website for more information,, and launched the “#ORdrought” campaign.

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Winchester Bay Salmon Fishing, Crabbing Red Hot

Bryan Gill of the Umpqua Angler reports continued excellent crabbing and some of the best ocean salmon fishing in recent memory. Photo coutesy of "The Umpqua Angler 541-852-9889.

Bryan Gill of the Umpqua Angler reports continued excellent crabbing and some of the best ocean salmon fishing in recent memory. Photo coutesy of “The Umpqua Angler 541-852-9889.

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Pete Heley Outdoors

In an Associated Press article that appeared in the Saturday edition of the Register Guard, a major fishing charter operation headquartered in Depoe Bay was charged with racketeering. Owners Tim and Julie Harmon, six boat captains and two other employees were arrested. According to Oregon State Police lieutenant Bill Fugate, the defendents were charging customers for daily fishing licenses and pocketing the money instead of purchasing the licenses from the ODFW. The customers never received an actual fishing license, but instead got a receipt for the money they paid.

The defendents, now released from jail, face a hearing on August 17th and the owners have been ordered to stay in Oregon and not sell any company assets or any fishing licenses. Besides racketeering, other charges facing the Harmons and other defendebts include theft, aggravated theft, failure to remit money from license sales and violations of Oregon wildlife laws.

Depending somewhat on the magnitude of the lost revenue to the state of Oregon, one can reasonably expect some restructuring of the handwritten portion of Oregon’s fishing and shellfish license sales.

Although neither happened in Oregon, sturgeon made the national news twice last week. Tragedy occurred when a sturgeon leaped aboard a boat on Florida’s Suwannee River, killing five year old Jaylon Rippy and sending her mother and nine year old brother to the hospital . Sturgeon-boater incidents have been on the rise, possibly due to lower river flows and increased boating traffic. Of course, the faster the boat speed, the more likely such collisions are serious.

Melodie Dowdy, who along with her husband Craig, owns and operates YJ Guide Service, hooked and landed an extremely rare albino sturgeon while fishing below Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River in southeast Washington. The albino sturgeon measured slightly more than six feet in length and had blue eyes and some light pink hues near the tail. The fish was released after a quick photograph. Earlier that day, the Dowdy’s caught and released a nine foot long white sturgeon with normal coloration.

The ocean finclipped coho salmon season is still underway and will continue through August 9th or until the quota of 55,000 finclipped cohos is reached – whichever is earlier. Recently, it seems that unkeepable unclipped coho salmon have made up a larger portion of the catch. Many salmon anglers are targeting the Chinook salmon that have entered the Umpqua River on their spawning run that are in a holding pattern below Reedsport because of very warm water. Best river results have been in the early morning or when a fairly high tide pushes cooler ocean water upriver at least as far as Gardiner.

There seems to be enough baitfish near the Umpqua River mouth to entice nonspawning feeder salmon into the lower river, but Half Moon Bay appears to lack its usual spinner flingers.

Tuna have been caught as close as 20 miles out at Charlston and Newport, but the anglers that headed out last Saturday had their trips ruined by high winds and the ensuing rough ocean conditions.

There are still good numbers of redtailed surfperch in the Umpqua River above Winchester Bay, but recent fishing success has been iffy and many of the perch have spawned and already headed back to the ocean, or will soon do so. It seems that an increasing number of anglers are returning to area beaches to catch their surfperch.

Crabbing has been fair off the docks at Winchester Bay and very very good at Half Moon Bay and in the ocean with many ocean crabbers reporting their best success at a depth of 40 feet.

Somewhat overlooked because of the improved crabbing and salmon fishing, the few anglers fishing the South Jetty last weekend reported excellent fishing for striped surfperch and bottomfish.A surprising number of flounder were caught last weekend at Winchester Bay by anglers fishing with sand shrimp.

The shad run in the mainstem Umpqua is very close to being over although there are still fair numbers in the South Umpqua River. There has also been recent reports of late running shad in the Coquille River.

The Umpqua River is running very low, very clear and very warm – perfect for sight-fishing for smallmouth bass with soft plastics and the fishing has been exceptional. One angler last week caught smallmouths as far downstream as the Elk Viewing Area.

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Bonaparte Lake Produces New Washington Record Tiger Trout

“I was stunned to see how big this trout really was. It looked as big as a salmon!”
That’s what angler Kelly Flaherty said about his new Washington state record tiger trout. Flaherty’s fish weighed 18.49 pounds. It smashed the previous Washington tiger trout record of 15.04 pounds set in 2012 by 3.5 pounds.
It also moves into second place as the biggest tiger trout ever, behind the 20.13 pound world record fish pulled from Lake Michigan in 1978.
Tiger trout are a hybrid of brown and brook trout, and are, to many anglers, the most beautiful trout, with their colorful vermiculations, or “worm-like” patterning.
They are also voracious fish eaters and are sterile, which makes them a popular stocking fish to help control undesirable fish populations.
Flaherty was shore fishing at the Bonaparte Lake Resort in Tonasket, Washington. He was using a nightcrawler and Pautzke-cured eggs – rigged on eight-pound test and cast from a six-foot Ugly Stick.
He cast and then began looking for something upon which to lean his rod, when he saw the big tiger swimming and pulling slack line just 10 feet from shore.
Flaherty set the hook and fought the thrashing fish for 15 minutes before landing it without a net. Worried that he might lose the fish for lack of a net he attempted to beach and “lip” the fish like a bass.
“I’ve caught enough bass to know about ‘bassers thumb’ but this thing tore me up,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I could hang on to it so I put my thumb in its’ mouth and the fish started thrashing. It wasn’t until I sat down that I realized my whole hand was bloody.”
Flaherty and crew took the fish to a Tonasket butcher shop to have the fish officially weighed on a certified scale with witnesses present. They contacted and registered the fish with Washington Fish and Wildlife, who also took biological samples to confirm and age the big trout.
Flaherty’s fish was 32.5 inches long with a belly-bulging 21.75-inch girth.

Krlly Flaherty's 18.49 pound tiger trout is the second heaviest ever caught - and the new Washington state record.

Krlly Flaherty’s 18.49 pound tiger trout is the second heaviest ever caught – and the new Washington state record.

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Potholes Reservoir / Mardon Resort Fishing Report

During this heat wave of late June and early July walleye anglers have enjoyed a continuing walleye bite on Potholes Reservoir. Your best luck is to fish for walleye in the early morning or late in the afternoon. Troll spinners and crawlers or try trolling a crankbait in 10 feet of water near a shallow weed line adjacent to some deeper water from 15 to 20 feet deep.   This same pattern of deep water near a shallow water weed line is a great area to cast a Rapala Shad-Rap, Strike King Square Bills and many other baitfish copies to catch quality bass and a few late morning feeding walleye. Anyone that says walleye don’t fight have not landed a 22in walleye casting a plug or a spinnerbait.

Bass anglers have been coming from all over the Northwest to experience our quality bass fishery on Potholes Reservoir. With our early summer heat top water bass fishing has been amazing. Many bass fishers finish their bass fishing before noon. And it has been common for anglers to report a 30 fish catch and release day. With surface water temps in the low 80 degree area, bass action has been simply nuts. Take the kids fishing on the face of O’Sullivan Dam for smallmouth bass and they will become interested in fishing in a single trip.

 Jack Peppler of the Royal Slope caught this huge rainbow trout fishing Soda Lake.

Jack Peppler of the Royal Slope caught this huge rainbow trout fishing Soda Lake.

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