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Oregon Considering Removing Recreational Fishing Bag Limits On Warmwater Fish
Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 (PST)

Smallmouth bass, walleye, sunfish, perch, bluegill, catfish, crappie.

 

All are fish that thrive in the warm waters of several Oregon rivers. All are non-native, or invasive, species and, given the opportunity, some will feed on juvenile salmon and steelhead, many of those listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

 

Oregon is seeking to remove recreational fishing bag limits on these fish in the Columbia, Umpqua and John Day rivers in order to simplify its fishing regulations, but also to reduce the impact these fish may have on the ESA-listed species that occupy the same waters.

 

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will begin to consider removing the bag limits for these and other species, including some trout species, at its next monthly meeting, August 7, and vote to approve the regulation changes at its September meeting. The changes would be effective for the 2016 fishing season.

 

“There are lots of confusing regulations and conservation needs,” said Mike Gauvin, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recreational fishing program manager. “First and foremost, though, we’re doing this to simplify and streamline the [Oregon] regulations.”

 

He said that the Umpqua River in southern Oregon has a 15-fish smallmouth bass limit, while the John Day River has just a five fish limit and the Columbia River has a 10-fish limit. It’s different for walleye and sunfish, perch, bluegill, catfish and crappie already have no bag limits.

 

The regulations are confusing for anglers, Gauvin said. The proposed changes are part of an ODFW regulation simplification project that he has been working on for the past eight months that will affect both trout and warmwater species.

 

There also are conservation reasons for making these changes, he added.

 

“The Columbia basin has many ESA-listed species,” Gauvin said. “Warmwater species is just a small component of the impacts on these fish, but we want to try to reduce any threats we can.”

 

The Columbia, Umpqua and John Day rivers all have strong populations of smallmouth bass that make these rivers the best bass fishing available in Oregon. 

 

The John Day River now has bass as high up in the river system as the North Fork and Middle Fork of the John Day River where they are spawning successfully, and they continue to spread further upstream, according to a recent study.

 

The warming water in the John Day River system has a lot to do with the spread of the invasive fish that first showed up in the river system in about 1974, according to the study. The river is home to naturally produced populations of steelhead, an ESA- listed stock, and chinook salmon.

 

For background, see CBB, May 1, 2015, “Ongoing Research Shows Invasive Bass Spreading Farther Up John Day Basin, Showing Spawning Success,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433884.aspx.

 

These are the same fish Oregon and Washington have suggested anglers fish while water temperatures are high, taking, to some degree, the fishing pressure off sturgeon, trout, salmon and steelhead that need colder water and are suffering and dying.

 

“They are a great resource and provide good fishing for anglers,” Gauvin said of warmwater species. He doesn’t think the quality of the fishing will change much if the Commission lifts bag limits, even with anglers removing more of the fish.

 

“This change is unlikely to have a biological impact and will not make much of a difference to these populations,” he said. “But they are non-native fish.”

 

The rules were originally “crafted” by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, Gauvin said. “We’re making the regulations concurrent.”

 

The Oregon Commission will publish the proposed changes at its website next week at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/.

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The Columbia Basin Bulletin, Bend, Oregon. For information or comments call 541-312-8860.
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