BROOKINGS — Beginning today, Oregon's ocean anglers will be forced to fish closer to shore to protect yelloweye rockfish, and they also will see their catch of cabezon reduced to keep the season open on them year-round.
April 1 makes the normal time when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife orders the recreational fleet targeting black rockfish and lingcod to stay within the 40-fathom line and fish only in waters 240 feet deep or less.
Anglers are kept inside the line from April through September to steer clear of rare yelloweye rockfish, which federal fishery managers consider to be an overfished stock.
Yelloweyes are deep-dwellers, so fishing closer to shore reduces their accidental catch. Yelloweyes normally do not survive getting hauled from those depths when their swim bladders inflate.
But it keeps anglers focused on black rockfish and lingcod — Oregon's two most popular bottomfish species.
Also beginning today is a new restriction: Anglers will be allowed to keep just one cabezon per day as part of an effort to end a seven-year stretch in which cabezon fishing ended in mid-season because state-imposed harvest quotas on them were reached.
Fisheries scientists in 2009 did their first assessment of cabezon numbers off the Oregon Coast and they set a new federal quota for Oregon this calendar year, says Brandon Ford, spokesman for the ODFW's Marine Program based in Newport.
Cabezon historically have been clumped in the generic rockfish category with black and blue rockfish, as well as a host of other species, and the aggregate daily limit on them is seven.
Taking cabezon out of that aggregate and setting its own limit of one cabezon per day is expected to keep Oregon under the federal harvest cap while fishing for cabezon a full calendar year, Ford says.
And unlike yelloweye, cabezon do not have swim bladders that inflate when the fish are pulled up from more than 60 feet deep, Ford says. That way, carefully handled cabezon can survive catch-and-release fishing quite easily, he says.
Today's changes do not affect salmon or halibut angling, which are managed under separate rules.
Also off-limits to anglers beginning this morning are the Applegate River, as well as coastal streams such as the Elk, Sixes and Chetco to protect spawning winter steelhead.
The Rogue River downstream of Lost Creek dam, however, remains open year-round. Waters upstream of Lost Creek Lake remain closed until April 23, the traditional start of Oregon's trout-fishing season.
A half-mile piece of Chetco River Road east of Brookings will close today and remain off limits to motorists through mid-July while repairs to the Upper Chetco River Bridge are made, according to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
The bridge, also known as the steel bridge, is on Forest Service Road No. 1376 at milepost 12.3, and there is no bypass around it during renovation work. Signs warning motorists of the closure went up this week along the roadway.
However, the area upstream of the bridge will be accessible around the end of May via other Forest Service spur roads after a seasonal closure to protect Port Orford cedar from root rot.
The bridge needs repair after 40 years of wear and tear, including the movement of ground around it, according to the Forest Service.
The $1.1 million project is funded through the federal stimulus program.
The spring black bear season opens in Southwest Oregon today and runs through May 31.
The tags were sold on a first-come, first-served basis and the tags sold out in February, says ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.