Smallmouth bass, walleye, sunfish, perch, bluegill, catfish,
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
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
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
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
The Oregon Commission will publish the proposed changes at
its website next week at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/.