Pete Heley Outdoors 07 / 25 / 2018

Oregon’s 157,000 boat owners may see a substantial hike in their biennial registration fees if the state Marine Board’s legislative wish list survives the next governor’s budget review. No fee increases are on tap for anglers and hunters, but the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife also has a long list of proposals, including one to make the Columbia River Endorsement fee permanent. Owners of registered boats may be asked for a 33 percent increase in their fees, from $4.50 to $5.95 per foot. And those with non-motorized, non-registered craft such as canoes, paddle boards, kayaks, etc. could be asked to replace the current $5 Aquatic Invasive Species permit with a new $17 Waterway Access permit. It would include the aquatic invasives fee, but would also fund new infrastructure for non-motorized craft. As with current law, registered boat owners already pay into the aquatic invasives program and wouldn’t be charged.

According to Larry Warren, the Marine Board director, “while registered boat numbers are down from their peak of about 200,000 at the turn of the century, use of the waterways has significantly increased – matching a national trend.”

According to an Oregon State Parks survey conducted in 2017, there were nine million trips in motorized boats and six million in non-motorized craft.

While no fee increases are under consideration for anglers and hunters, there is a proposal to eliminate the sunset law on the Columbia River Endorsement fee, making it a permanent permit for those who fish for salmon, steelhead or sturgeon anywhere in the Columbia basin. The proposal would also dedicate the fee to hatchery propagation and monitoring.

One ODFW proposal would have one day fishing licenses also include a shellfish license – which should be very popular, especially if any fee increase is modest.

In an act guaranteed to put hunters, even completely legal ones, in a less favorable public view, a federally protected wild burro was seen wandering around Reche Canyon in southern California in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains with an arrow stuck in its head. Even wounded, the burro was able to escape volunteers trying to assist it – despite being hit with two tranquilizer darts. During the chase the arrow fell out, but the head wound was clearly visible and bleeding. Here’s hoping for happy conclusion to an otherwise sad ongoing saga.

Anglers are, once again, able to float the lower Deschutes River after a severe fire burned virtually everything down to the riverbank. Anglers fishing from shore have to deal considerable ash and may be at risk if they already have respiratory problems. However, anglers fishing the lower Deschutes have reported normal fishing.

During the last halibut opener, anglers fishing 35 miles offshore reported being checked by Oregon State Police. While it is commendable that they made the effort to check these offshore anglers – they only checked to see if they had combined angling tags and if any halibut on board were properly tagged. What they did not do, after traveling all that distance, was check to see if any boat had the legally required descending devices on board – which tells me that they were only concerned with revenue collection and not with the health of the offshore fishery.

As an agency supposedly in a partnership with the ODFW, I would expect them to do a “better job”.

As I am writing this, the ocean salmon results through July 15th are available on the ODFW website. In one way, the most productive port continues to be Bandon which had six retained salmon (3 cohos + 3 chinooks) for six angler trips. Not a lot of salmon or fishing effort, but the one retained salmon per angler/trip is still the zone’s best.

Brookings continues to be the busiest port with 2,048 angler trips and also leads with 308 retained chinook salmon. But almost all of those chinooks were caught on the season’s opening weekend and with only three retained coho so far, Brookings has been remarkably unproductive since the opening weekend.

Although ocean salmon fishing success is improving from Charleston northward, no ports have success rates above .30 salmon per angler trip, except for Winchester Bay which has .46 salmon per angler trip.

Ironically. while many ports are reporting as many kept chinooks as coho salmon, less than 25 percent of the kept salmon at Winchester Bay have been chinooks and the port has accounted for more than 40 percent of the retained cohos caught in southern Oregon. Winchester Bay anglers wanting to catch a chinook salmon might do better to fish the lower Umpqua River which contains fair numbers of chinooks.

Although no ocean-caught salmon have yet been reported, southern Oregon’s hottest salmon fishing has been the first four miles of the Rogue River above Gold Beach.

As for the ocean finclipped coho season – After two and a half weeks, with six weeks remaining, only 2.7 percent of the quotas 35,000 cohos have been caught.

Consistent, strong winds have reduced fishing pressure along the Oregon coast, but crabbing success is improving and reports of crabs with low meat content are increasingly uncommon.

Some striped bass are still being caught in the Smith and Coquille rivers with almost all the catches occurring at night on bait.

The spawning run of female redtail surfperch in the lower Umpqua River above Winchester Bay has rebounded strongly with good catches the rule all last week.

Tenmile Lakes trout fishing has dropped off, but fishing for largemouth bass and yellow perch has been fair to good. Eel Lake continues to offer the best mixed-bag freshwater fishing with largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow and cutthroat trout, black crappie, bluegills and brown bullheads taken last week.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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