Oregon anglers looking to double their chances of catching limits of trout, crappie and other species from lakes and ponds now have a chance to do so without looking over their shoulders.

Oregon anglers looking to double their chances of catching limits of trout, crappie and other species from lakes and ponds now have a chance to do so without looking over their shoulders.

A new two-rod tag gives holders the legal opportunity to fish with two rods at a time in inland lakes, reservoirs and ponds.

It does not allow fishing with more than one rod in the ocean, rivers or impoundments along the Columbia River.

The tag costs $17 — on top of the normal angling license fee of $33 for residents — and as of Friday, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had sold 5,245 of them.

"We really don't have any good idea how many of them we're going to sell," ODFW Fish Division spokeswoman Jessica Sall says. "The lake-fishing season really hasn't started yet, so I'd expect the rate of purchases to increase a bit."

The new tag represents the only significant change coming to Oregon's quarter-million anglers who take to their favorite waters on the fourth Saturday of every April, which is the traditional opening day of spring trout fishing here.

Opening a week from this upcoming Saturday are Howard Prairie Lake and nearby Hyatt Lake atop the Dead Indian Plateau east of Ashland. Both lakes have been ice-free since earlier this month — a rarity for these high-mountain reservoirs.

Also opening is the Jenny Creek system east of Ashland and the Ashland Creek forks upstream of Reeder Dam near Ashland.

Diamond Lake in eastern Douglas County also opens April 24, though it remained under slushy ice this week. Often, that lake does not become accessible until a week or more after the opener, and the last two years the lake was so iced-over that anglers used augers to drill holes and mine for trout like Minnesotans.

This year, however, two ice-holes are legally better than one thanks to the Oregon Legislature.

As part of an overhaul of sport and commercial fees, the ODFW asked for and received legislative permission to mimic other states by selling the two-rod tag.

The tag applies for those trolling or still-fishing. It also allows anglers to fish with multiple disciplines at the same time.

One of those places where double-rodders ought to be prevalent is Diamond Lake, which remains the crown jewel of Oregon trout fisheries as it enters its fourth season after being reclaimed for trout from illegally introduced tui chubs.

The ODFW chemically poisoned the lake in 2006, then began a restocking program the following spring that has created a popular multi-tiered fishery for big rainbow trout.

Laura Jackson, the ODFW's Umpqua District fish biologist, says her agency estimates the catch rate at Diamond Lake to be 1.4 trout per angler per day.

With a two-rod license, anglers feasibly could double that catch rate if they chose to fish two rods in the same locale and in the same fashion.

Also, fly-fishers could use a chironomid fly in the summer — a popular fly to catch rainbows there, particularly on the south end — while tossing out a more conventional offering of PowerBait or a worm sunk six feet beneath a bobber.

Anglers better pay attention, though, or one rod might go flying over their boat gunnel while they fight a fat rainbow with the other.

Though the two-rod tag could be a threat to rods, Jackson says she does not see the change as a threat to over-fishing Diamond Lake's rainbows.

"This lake has enough of a trout population that people can harvest more," Jackson says.

When the ODFW made its pitch to the legislature last year, biologists estimated that about two-thirds of Oregon's anglers fished for trout in lakes and reservoirs, Sall says.

For sake of argument, they estimated that 10 percent of those trout anglers would buy a two-rod tag, Sall says. At that level, the agency would sell about 43,000 two-rod tags, she says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.