Pete Heley Outdoors 12 / 21 / 2016

Recreational crabbing for our local area finally opened last Friday. The entire southern Oregon coast is now open from the Oregon-California border northward to the North Jetty of the Umpqua River. In other words, from the Umpqua’s North Jetty north to about Tillamook (Cape Lookout), a distance of about 140 miles is still closed to crabbing. So popular crabbing spots like Florence, Waldport and Newport remain closed to crabbing until further notice. Charlston and Winchester Bay are now open for crabbing, but someone attempting to crab out of Winchester Bay would need to head south or due west to be crabbing in open waters. The few crabbers that actually ventured out into the ocean last weekend reported fair to good success. Commercial crabbing has reopened along the southern Oregon coast. Quite often, commercial crabbing remains closed until the entire coast is open to avoid concentrating commercial crabbing effort on a relatively small area.

While recent tests for marine toxins in shellfish in our area have shown safe levels of domoic acid, test results have fluctuated greatly and quickly. So there may be more closures regarding shellfish in the months ahead. Right now the entire Oregon coast is open for mussels and bay clams and closed for razor clams.

Beginning Jan. 1st in 2017, any vessel fishing for, or possessing, bottomfish in the ocean must have a functional descending device onboard, and use it when releasing any rockfish outside of 30 fathoms. A functional descending device means one that is ready to be used and easily accessible. Ocean fishing for lingcod and rockfish has been good when ocean and bar conditions have allowed it.

No trout have been planted in any lakes along the Oregon coast for two months, but some of the larger lakes have carrover, native and searun trout. Diamond Lake now has an ice cover which may be thick enough for ice-fishing. Make sure to check at the resort before actually venturing out on the ice. When fishing, make sure to release any tiger trout caught – they’ll barely be eight inches long anyway.

Last week’s cold snap almost certainly slowed fishing success for yellow perch and had them seeking deeper water. In Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes anything over 15 feet qualifies as deeper water. Bullhead catfish and some bass will be at similar depths. Expect slow action and very light bites.

Hunters have until January 31st to report their hunt results – even if they did not use their tags – and for hunters that purchased deer and elk tags, not reporting could mean your next hunting tag could come with a $25 surcharge.

Another “free fishing weekend” is coming up. This one will be Dec. 31st and January 1st. Fishing and shellfish licenses won’t be necessary and steelhead anglers will not need combined angling tags. Unless there are last minute changes, there won’t be any harvesting of razor clams in Oregon, or crabs in the area along the Oregon coast that remains closed to crabbing.

Once again, 2017, fishing licenses and tags make great holiday gifts and have been available for purchase since Dec. 1st.

In a decision many Oregon hunters will applaud, Colorado officials will proceed with a controversial plan to kill dozens of mountain lions and bears to bolster the state’s declining mule deer population.

Last week’s vote by Parks and Wildlife commissioners authorizes specialized contractors to kill up to 25 black bears and 15 mountain lions per year across two regions in the central and western parts of Colorado. The project will run for three years, to be followed by a six-year study of how deer populations respond to fewer predators.

The population of Colorado’s mule deer, a prized quarry of hunters, has dropped sharply in a puzzling, decades-long decline to about 450,000 animals, which state officials said was about 110,000 fewer than there should be.

A 2014 state study tied the decline to seven factors, including predators, whose numbers have swelled because of a “decline in frequency of severe winters.”

Critics, however, said the state should focus first on the human-led destruction of mule deer habitat.
“The decline of mule deer in western Colorado and around the west is obviously a complex issue with complex causes,” Brian Kurzel, Rocky Mountain regional director for the National Wildlife Federation, told The Huffington Post. “By far, the greatest issue — and one that I think deserves the most attention in any science-based study — is habitat quantity and quality.”

Kurzel pointed out that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently approved 15,000 new oil and gas wells in a patch of western Colorado sometimes referred to as “the mule-deer factory,” where the herd has declined to about 30,000 from more than 100,000 in the early 1980s. Though state officials have acknowledged oil and gas development affects mule deer populations, they didn’t oppose the federal decision. Other factors, including highways (which disrupt migratory corridors), residential growth and human recreation are also curbing the mule deer population, Kurzel said.

State Parks and Wildlife officials don’t necessarily disagree. They pitched the $4.5 million predator-culling program as a way to gather research for later decisions.The state budget ― and the contribution of deer hunters to it ― also may be a factor. The Denver Post reported that Colorado Parks and Wildlife gets 90 percent of its funding from hunting and fishing licenses.

The department denied that its plan to kill predators of animals prized by hunters is influenced by money, but there’s no question more diversified funding would be a good thing, especially if deer populations continue to decline.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.

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