A new set of ocean-fishing regulations go into effect Sunday as part of an attempt to stave off mid-season reductions or closures to Oregon's recreational fleets this year.
Beginning Sunday, anglers will be restricted to fishing within the 30-fathom line when targeting bottomfish such as black and blue rockfish and lingcod — the staples of the pleasure-boat fishery.
In past years, anglers have been kept inside the 40-fathom curve beginning April 1, but pulling anglers closer to shore this year is a tactic meant to steer jigs and baits away from yelloweye and canary rockfish that dwell on deeper reefs off the Oregon Coast.
These species are considered overfished by federal ocean managers, and when anglers catch and release them, enough of them die to close or curtail fishing on the ocean. In three of the past four years, too many yelloweyes were caught, forcing anglers to move inside the 20-fathom line, says Lynn Mattes, the sport groundfish project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Starting the April season with bottomfishing relegated to inside the 30-fathom line is designed to keep the 20-fathom restriction from occurring again in mid-summer or possibly even keeping it off the books for all of 2012, Mattes says.
"The chances of that happening are better at 30 fathoms than they are at 40 fathoms, that's for sure," Mattes says.
Losing that extra 60 feet of fishable water has some significant impacts, Mattes says.
Bottomfish anglers are accidentally going to run into fewer yelloweyes when fishing in water 180 feet deep instead of 240 feet, Mattes says. Also, the formula for calculating the number of fish that die after release is slightly more favorable to anglers, she says.
"That's all we need is a little bit," Mattes says.
When the near-shore halibut fishery opens May 1, anglers will have to use slightly different tactics during halibut trips because the halibut fishery will remain inside the 40-fathom curve, Mattes says.
Anglers are advised to travel outside the 30-fathom line to catch their halibut, then travel inside the 30-fathom line to catch bottomfish, she says.
The 30-fathom waypoints can be found at ODFW's Marine Program website at www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP.
Sunday also brings the start of the cabezon season off the Oregon Coast.
For the first time, anglers this year are banned from keeping any cabezon during the first three months and last three months of the year in hopes of stringing out the federally mandated 15 metric ton cabezon quota through September.
Every year since 2004, anglers have caught the cabezon quota by mid-summer, forcing a closure for that species.
By changing the open cabezon season to April 1 through September, the hope is that a mid-season closure can be avoided, Mattes says.
That was an option favored by anglers polled in bottomfish meetings last year.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.